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Kennedy opposes $100 million private school tuition program

Thursday, Aug 10, 2017

* From a Chris Kennedy fundraising e-mail…

Rauner’s amendatory veto of SB1 hurts our public schools even more. Because what he isn’t telling you is that behind closed doors he’s working to privatize those funds and redistribute them to private schools in the area. He is calling for a $100 million school voucher program.

This school voucher program is being decided on behind closed doors and just proves what we’ve known all along — Rauner doesn’t care about the families of Illinois, he only cares about his own interests. Whether it’s a budget for the state or school funding, Rauner does not care about the damage he’s causing our state.

Rauner wants to rob our public schools to enrich private schools. We cannot let this happen.

* Mayor Emanuel is trying to stay mum on the topic

Mayor Rahm Emanuel dodged questions on school vouchers Thursday even as negotiations continue on a new statewide funding formula — talks that, at Gov. Bruce Rauner’s request, include vouchers. […]

Emanuel was asked where he stands on school vouchers before heading off to O’Hare for a flight to the U.S. Conference of Mayor’s meeting in New Orleans.

“My primary focus is on public education,” the mayor said.

Pressed on whether he opposes vouchers, Emanuel said, “I have a history and my record is clear as it relates to public education. And my record is clear as it relates to vouchers and using public money for private schools.”

I wish the media would stop calling this a voucher program. These aren’t vouchers. This is a private school scholarship fund underwritten, as proposed, by 100 percent state income tax credits.

* The Cardinal lobbied the mayor a few months ago about this topic

Cupich, who invited Emanuel and his wife, Amy Rule, to Rome to witness his elevation to cardinal in November, emailed Emanuel in April about the plan. He said he supported U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ proposal to give credits to taxpayers who donate to a fund that covers private school tuition.

“I am convinced that this would be an enormous boost to the Chicago schools and the thousands of parents who use our schools,” Cupich wrote in the email sent April 11.

Emanuel responded in an email back the next day, saying, “Of course we will discuss,” as first reported by WBEZ.

Enrollment at Chicago’s Catholic schools has been dropping for several years, leading to closures of several schools — including St. Benedict High School in North Center — and the merger of four Far Northwest Side Catholic schools into Pope Francis Global Academy.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - wordslinger - Thursday, Aug 10, 17 @ 3:38 pm:

    The media really need to get in the ballgame here. They’re really confusing this issue.

    The current proposal is not a voucher program, at all. I don’t get how they even landed on “vouchers.”

    It’s a tax credit for those who fund scholarships to private schools. The private schools will get the money and decide who gets the scholarships.

    It’s taxpayer dollars for private school scholarships. There is no voucher component for parents wishing to send their kids to private schools.

  2. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Aug 10, 17 @ 3:39 pm:

    Calling it a voucher program, be it candidate or media, dies a disservice to either asking about it or responding to the program.

    I do understand Cardinal Cupich’s desire for the credit is understandable. The closing of Catholic schools at all grade levels has been going on for 20 years and any pause or stopping of these school closures would be a big “turnaround”.

  3. - Mr. B. - Thursday, Aug 10, 17 @ 3:41 pm:

    My kid goes to a charter, so I am a fan of choice.

  4. - Moody's Blues - Thursday, Aug 10, 17 @ 3:48 pm:

    So Mr. Kennedy doesn’t want poor Illinois children to have the excellent educational opportunities he had at:
    Our Lady of Victory Catholic School,
    Georgetown Preparatory School (Jesuit)
    Boston College (Jesuit)
    Kellogg School, Northwestern University (private)

    Legislators will have to think about the potential for hypocrisy on this issue — I deserved a great education. But the low- and middle-income kids who would receive these scholarships aren’t as important as the lobbyists telling us to vote against this.

    You’d think Mr. Kennedy at least would have his fundraising pitch close to accurate. This is a choice program, it is most definitely not a voucher program.

  5. - Arthur Andersen - Thursday, Aug 10, 17 @ 3:49 pm:

    My kids attended Catholic schools because of our religion. We never expected our choice to be subsidized, though as a matter of full disclosure we took the $250 State tax credit when it was available. This program ain’t that.

  6. - wordslinger - Thursday, Aug 10, 17 @ 3:52 pm:

    –So Mr. Kennedy doesn’t want poor Illinois children to have the excellent educational opportunities he had at:–

    You know who’s getting the scholarships, do you? How’d you find that out?

    No one is stopping anyone from providing scholarships for anyone to go to private school.

    What is your rationale as to why taxpayers have to foot the bill for them, when they’re already paying for the public schools?

    Just free stuff?

  7. - GA Watcher - Thursday, Aug 10, 17 @ 3:52 pm:

    Unless you are a school in a newly developing community, student enrollments are dropping everywhere — including private schools. It’s just a matter of current demographics. A tuition tax credit is not going to solve this problem for private/parochial schools.

  8. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Aug 10, 17 @ 3:53 pm:

    - Moody’s Blues -

    The “shaming” of candidates that attended private schools or Catholic schools makes me less inclined to think this is a good idea.

    Rauner clouted his denied Winnetka-living daughter into Payton Prep, a CPS school, but what needs to happen is “shaming” public officials concerned on a tax credit program.

    If the only argument to support the program is “so a person doesn’t get shamed”… how great of a program is it?

  9. - wordslinger - Thursday, Aug 10, 17 @ 3:54 pm:

    –A tuition tax credit is not going to solve this problem for private/parochial schools.–

    A tuition tax credit is not what’s being proposed. Nor is a voucher program.

  10. - Mr B. - Thursday, Aug 10, 17 @ 3:54 pm:

    The general population, at least in Chicago, is pretty open to Charters.

  11. - Will Caskey - Thursday, Aug 10, 17 @ 3:57 pm:

    Honestly i would approve an attack calling it a voucher program. I see your point but think it’s a distinction without a difference

  12. - wordslinger - Thursday, Aug 10, 17 @ 4:01 pm:

    –I see your point but think it’s a distinction without a difference–

    That’s absurd.

    A voucher program would benefit all eligible parents. A scholarship program benefits the few who are selected for scholarships.

  13. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Aug 10, 17 @ 4:07 pm:

    ===A scholarship program benefits the few who are selected for scholarships===

    And the people who fund them.

  14. - wordslinger - Thursday, Aug 10, 17 @ 4:10 pm:

    –And the people who fund them.–


    I’d be a lot more generous if I knew I’d get a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for my “philanthropy.”

  15. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Aug 10, 17 @ 4:11 pm:

    === === A scholarship program benefits the few who are selected for scholarships===

    And the people who fund them.===

    Made me think of the GA Scholarships for a moment there…

  16. - northsider (the original) - Thursday, Aug 10, 17 @ 4:26 pm:

    Donations to scholarship funds are already tax deductible. Who does this help?

  17. - Cassandra - Thursday, Aug 10, 17 @ 4:26 pm:

    So we are talking about a fund which helps lower-income families access the private school system.
    It’s hard for me to be against that, even if helping religious schools is part of the outcome and I am not religious. My adult kids and I are having that discussion right now regarding the grandkids-though not in Illinois. Public or private. Keep in mind that many if not most of the wealthy and powerful appear to use the private school system. Not just they, but we all want our kids to have the best possible chance in life, and we can’t all just move to, say, Winnetka if the local public school isn’t performing well.

  18. - wordslinger - Thursday, Aug 10, 17 @ 4:29 pm:

    –Donations to scholarship funds are already tax deductible.–

    One reduces your taxable income. One reduces your tax.

    Tax credits are much more better.

  19. - Anonymous - Thursday, Aug 10, 17 @ 4:44 pm:

    According to the language of the credit posted by Rich the other day it doesn’t appear that it is limited to private schools. The definition of qualified school is public or non-public school. So it appears that the scholarships could be used to pay for out-of-district fees for kids attending a public school outside of the district in which they reside.

  20. - Precinct Captain - Thursday, Aug 10, 17 @ 4:45 pm:

    It’s a tax credit for the ultra rich.

    Who would regulate these scholarships? What are the criteria?

  21. - Anonymous - Thursday, Aug 10, 17 @ 4:50 pm:

    What gets me is that the governor has yet to propose a balanced budget and here he is with a last minute proposal for a budget-busting, unfunded tax credit. Shesh

  22. - Flyer - Thursday, Aug 10, 17 @ 4:51 pm:

    A more realistic approach would be to raise the tuition tax credit limit.

  23. - illini - Thursday, Aug 10, 17 @ 4:58 pm:

    I attended a private/parochial for 8 years so I do understand the attraction.

    Unbelievable as it may be, 1/3 of those children who currently attend my old school do not have parents who are communicant members of our church, yet we do not charge any tuition of anyone who wants to enroll their children.

    I do believe in school choice but am adamantly opposed to spending tax monies to promote private/parochial schools by siphoning off the monies from our public institutions.

    This is a bad idea from the start. Rich is absolutely correct when he said

    ===A scholarship program benefits the few who are selected for scholarships

    And the people who fund them. ===

    My church has made one of its missions to provide a Christian ( I won’t mention the denomination ) education and has determined to continue providing a free “private” education for anyone who wants to enroll their children.

    I fully realize that this is situation far from the norm, but I remain totally opposed to this taxpayer subsidy of education.

  24. - Arthur Andersen - Thursday, Aug 10, 17 @ 5:24 pm:

    Illini, that is indeed both a generous and exceptional program. My parish/school provided a fair amount of free or reduced tuition to active parishioners who otherwise couldn’t afford it or had fallen on hard times, but we were nowhere near one-third.

    I am totally with you in opposing this proposal.

  25. - igotgotgotgotnotime - Thursday, Aug 10, 17 @ 5:32 pm:

    Shouldn’t Rauner be calling a hundred million dollar kick in our critically ill budget “outrageous”?

  26. - Anonymous - Thursday, Aug 10, 17 @ 5:32 pm:

    Hypocrisy? What a stretch.

    Basically, this is a proposal to allow some to avoid paying a part of the state income tax burden if they give money to a private school scholarship fund. It is a tax loophole that takes money that should be going to the Department of Revenue (and lord knows Illinois is bankrupt already), and gives those tax revenues to private schools in the form of tuition deferment.

    Clearly, this help private schools maintain their enrollments at the expenses of general state revenues, and public school enrollments.

    This does nothing to ensure all children have access, especially those rural children who do not live near private schools.

  27. - Robert J Hironimus-Wendt - Thursday, Aug 10, 17 @ 5:34 pm:

    Anonymous @ 5:32 was me. I forgot to post my name.

  28. - Anon221 - Thursday, Aug 10, 17 @ 5:54 pm:

    For those that support this program… You do realize you are subsidizing, for instance, Bruce and Diana Rauner’s contributions, don’t you? One way or another, through higher property taxes to maintain the schools in your area, through higher income taxes to offset the (at least because if passed it could grow) $100 mil out of General Revenue, and through more winner-loser areas of the state that cost more to try and maintain. Sorry, Bruce and Diana and all their tax-credit eating friends can do this on their own dime, not mine.

  29. - 39th Ward - Thursday, Aug 10, 17 @ 6:16 pm:

    Remember that the real estate taxes that fund those top tier suburban public schools are already tax deductible. We are already subsidizing a massive school choice program, and the bigger the tax bill the bigger the subsidy.

  30. - Pot calling kettle - Thursday, Aug 10, 17 @ 6:19 pm:

    ==So we are talking about a fund which helps lower-income families access the private school system.==

    No. We are talking about the diversion of tax dollars to fund scholarships for private schools. There is no indication of what the qualifications for the scholarships would be.

    I’m guessing it would only take a couple of minutes for someone to figure out that you could donate an amount equal to your child’s tuition to a qualifying scholarship fund and then have that money given to your child as a “scholarship.” In the process, you would get a 100% tax credit for your child’s tuition.

  31. - PJ - Thursday, Aug 10, 17 @ 6:39 pm:

    It’s a joke. The proponents have been actively advertising that the rich stand to actually *make* money by contributing the max, because they get both the state and federal tax credits.

    That’s money that would be going to fund actual public schools (or roads, or police, or anything else). Instead it goes to:

    A. The pockets of the already wealthy
    B. Private schools, without any oversight of who actually receives said scholarship money

    Makes me furious.

  32. - PJ - Thursday, Aug 10, 17 @ 6:41 pm:

    Charity is great. State-sponsored “charity” that actually benefits the wealthy at the expense of the public is a perversion of the term.

    People are free to fund private school scholarships anytime they want.

  33. - Anon221 - Thursday, Aug 10, 17 @ 6:47 pm:

    39th Ward- if I’ve been doing my taxes wrong, please tell me, but real estate taxes are not 100% deductible, like this program proposes to be. The Rauners could potentially get their property taxes back in full as tax credits, plus that piddling amount that state allows on income tax deductions.

  34. - Back to the Mountains - Thursday, Aug 10, 17 @ 6:53 pm:

    Okay, I’ll run the risk of being labelled dense. My understanding is that money, which the state would otherwise get, is being diverted into a program which pays for a student to attend a private school. How is that not a modified form of a voucher?

    Under a voucher, a student gets tax dollars to attend a private school. Under this program, what would have been tax dollars are being given to a student to attend a private school.

  35. - wordslinger - Thursday, Aug 10, 17 @ 7:06 pm:

    –Under this program, what would have been tax dollars are being given to a student to attend a private school.–

    The money is given to a scholarship fund. The fund administrator decides on scholarship amounts, the students who will receive them and for which schools.

    The dollar-for-dollar tax credit goes to the contributor to the scholarship fund.

    That is not a voucher. A voucher would go to parents who could use it for the private school of their choice.

  36. - wordslinger - Thursday, Aug 10, 17 @ 7:10 pm:

    For all you school choice advocates, how’s about we just go for open enrollment at the public schools?

    I believe ISBE Chairman Meeks was an advocate of that at one point.

    That way, kids in Austin could go to Oak Park, kids in Bellwood could go to Hinsdale Central, kids in North Chicago could go to New Trier, etc.

    True market solution.

    I’m sure a policy force du jour like Lucci would be all over that.

  37. - illini - Thursday, Aug 10, 17 @ 7:50 pm:

    @wordslinger - why do you have to bring up the nuances of this IPI approved program?

    Please keep pointing out the hypocrisy of the Raunerites.

  38. - Back to the Mountains - Thursday, Aug 10, 17 @ 10:22 pm:

    @wordslinger, thank you. That is a nuance to the proposal that I didn’t consider.

  39. - Amalia - Thursday, Aug 10, 17 @ 11:25 pm:

    No Way. I attended non public school for 8 years. My parents made the choice, my parents made the financial decisions. We never supported public money for anything other than public schools. NO. your system is failing Cardinal. You are asking for a bailout. No.

  40. - Anon221 - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 9:03 am:

    From “School Choice Program Raises Questions about Accountability” AP:
    The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy say loopholes in the tax code would allow contributors to both eliminate their state tax bill and also get a charitable deduction off their federal taxes, and in some cases, also their state taxes. Carl Davis, the Washington-based think tank’s research director, likened the system to a money-laundering tax scheme because the contributions are officially considered donations — even if the scholarship money goes to for-profit schools.
    “That’s not charity. That’s just helping facilitate the movement of funds. These so-called donors are really like middlemen,” Davis said. “They’re not making a financial sacrifice.”
    More from the article:
    Acknowledging that there are things to address, EdChoice’s policy director Jason Bedrick says his team has advised scholarship groups not to mischaracterize the system as a “get rich quick” scheme.
    But he’s not apologetic about the tax loophole, saying it’s no different compared to tax credits for other charitable causes that in some states, though very rarely, is also a dollar-for-dollar contribution. And if there is tax code reform to address double-dipping, it should apply uniformly to all donor tax credits — not just for a highly political issue like vouchers.
    “Some people might not like that, but they’re acting within the letter of the law. I see no problem with that,” Bedrick said. “Nobody’s going to go to jail for this.”

    Because no one is going to jail that makes it soooo OK??? Is that the litmus test we should be using???

  41. - Rollo Tamasi - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 9:30 am:

    If that money goes to schools like Leo and Hales in the city I’m all for it. But should be based on family’s adjusted gross income. Lake Forest parent’s wouldn’t qualify.

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