New Illinois tax credit scholarship program to benefit Catholic schools

By Laura Katauskas

Staff Reporter

As the basis for school funding was intensely debated this summer in the legislature, the fruits of its labor are beginning to show in favor for private schools.
In August, the Illinois House and Senate passed a comprehensive education funding bill which was signed into law by the Governor. According to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Joliet, additional details now are beginning to unfold, including a new five-year program for Tax Credit Scholarships (TCS) for students in private schools.

Scholarships can be awarded based on a family’s income level in relation to the federal poverty level. For example, according to the Illinois Policy Institute, scholarships may be awarded to families whose income does not exceed 300 percent of the federal poverty level. For example, a family of four earning $73,800 or less would qualify.

In Romeoville, St. Andrew the Apostle released information regarding the tax credit scholarship, encouraging students to check for eligibility. For students whose household income is less than 185 percent of the federal poverty level, the scholarship will be 100 percent of tuition and necessary fees; for students whose household income is between 185 percent and 250 percent, scholarships will average 75 percent of tuition and necessary fees; and for students whose household income is above 250 percent, scholarships will average 50 percent of tuition and necessary fees. (See chart)

According to the Diocese, the new scholarship program is funded by individual and corporate donors who will receive a tax break (75 percent of their donation) for their contribution to a scholarship granting organizations (SGO) such as the Diocese. These organizations will then use this money to grant scholarships to qualifying students. Individual donors can direct their donations to the school or subset of schools of their choice. Corporate donors cannot designate. The credit is non-refundable, but it can be carried forward for five years.

The State of Illinois has created a new way to fund scholarships for children who choose to attend Catholic schools through the “Invest in Kids Act.” The Empower Illinois Scholarship Granting Organization will be operational and is expected to have application information ready Dec. 15 and anticipates accepting applications Jan. 2, 2018.

The Diocese reports that to qualify for a scholarship, a student’s family will have to give official documentation to the SGO of their ability to pay. Initially, students whose families earn 300 percent of the federal poverty level or less ($73,800 for a family of four) will qualify. Once a student receives a scholarship, his or her family can earn up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level ($98,400 for a family of four). From January 1 to April 1, priority will be given to students from each of the following categories: Students who received a scholarship from an SGO during the previous school year; Students who are members of a household whose previous year’s total annual income does not exceed 185 percent of the federal poverty level ($45,510 for a family of four}; Students who reside within a focus district; and students who are siblings of students currently receiving a scholarship. After April 1, all other qualifying students will be able to receive scholarships.

For more information, contact Carol Albreski, Principal, St. Andrew the Apostle at 815-886-5953 or visit www.weteachmore.org.

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