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Rauner’s new digital ad focuses on Pritzker’s opposition to private school tuition tax credit

Wednesday, Aug 29, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Press release…

Today, the Rauner campaign is launching a new digital ad titled “Yep,” as Illinois students are starting the new school year.

The ad centers around the tax credit scholarship program signed into law by Governor Rauner designed to help low-income students. But JB Pritzker has made it clear that he will immediately get rid of this program if elected, denying these students the opportunity for a better future. This is in spite of the fact that Pritzker paid zero state income tax in 2014 due in part to him claiming tax credits for educational expenses.

The ad features footage of a press conference in April in which Pritzker was asked about the program.

“We’re going to get rid of them,” Pritzker said of the tax credits.

“Immediately?” a reporter asked.


* The ad

* Transcript…

This is JB Pritzker. He took tax credits to protect his wealth. In fact, he paid no state income tax in 2014 after taking tax credits. But as Governor, JB Pritzker would end tax credits that helps low-income students. The hypocrisy is clear. Tax credits for Pritzker, but not for low-income students.

…Adding… From WBEZ

The scholarships aren’t just for poor kids.

Early figures show 28 percent of the scholarships are going to kids who don’t qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. A family of four can make up to $73,800 and get one or more scholarships; once they’re selected they can make up to $98,400 without losing their tuition help. While poor kids are supposed to get priority under the law, that doesn’t necessarily happen. Kids who live in a low-performing school district also get priority. And donors can designate funds to specific schools. If scholarship groups can’t find enough free-lunch kids at that particular school, they can give the designated funds to non-poor applicants (more on this below).

Some school choice advocates are fine with this; they’re pushing for the middle class to be included in tax credit scholarship programs. Enrollment of middle-income students in private schools has been falling.

It looks like many scholarship winners were already attending private school.

This has also happened in other states. Many Illinois private schools made sure to get the word about the scholarships out to their families; some held application events so their students would have a better shot at the new first-come, first-served scholarships. At St. Mary Star of the Sea School on the Southwest Side, 30 kids are getting tax credit scholarships. According to Principal Candice Usauskas, two-thirds were already students there. All seven kids who will attend Frances Xavier Warde with taxpayer help were already students at the school, according to the group that awarded their scholarships.

We may never know how many scholarship winners were already attending private schools because scholarship groups aren’t required to report that information.


  1. - Flat Bed Ford - Wednesday, Aug 29, 18 @ 9:30 am:

    Factual. Shows JB as an out of touch tax dodging guy who operates by a different set of rules. Rules he doesn’t want the average person to have. solid ad.

  2. - Ray del Camino - Wednesday, Aug 29, 18 @ 9:31 am:

    Um, they’re not “tax credits for low-income students.” I suspect they’re tax credits going mostly to upper-middle-class and upper-income folks, who are undermining public schools.

  3. - Jibba - Wednesday, Aug 29, 18 @ 9:32 am:

    Finally, a true and fair hit on Pritzker by Rauner. This is one area of true disagreement that voters should take into account. I happen to agree with JB, but this is real.

  4. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Aug 29, 18 @ 9:35 am:

    Meh, I would have just gone with “billionaire paid no income taxes.” Simple, and a hit in any league.

    The scholarship program didn’t garner much public support, generating only about $10 million in actual charitable donations after credits.

  5. - A Jack - Wednesday, Aug 29, 18 @ 9:37 am:

    Bad ad. It points out what we knew all along that the tax credit was a give away to the wealthy. It may have made more sense if he pointed out a middle class person who took the tax credit.

  6. - JS Mill - Wednesday, Aug 29, 18 @ 9:40 am:

    Good on Pritzker to step up and take a stand on something that was a farce to begin with- a back-door voucher program sending what would have been public dollars to private and mostly parochial schools. I applaud his stance.

    This is a plus ad for Pritzker in the eyes of many, a real fail for Rauner.

    =Shows JB as an out of touch tax dodging guy who operates by a different set of rules. Rules he doesn’t want the average person to have. solid ad.=

    Yeah, Rauner is n’t out of touch with the failed tax dodge plan? Please.

    Rauner should have to file an A-1 (or what ever the proper form is) for an in kind donation to Pritzker.

  7. - ChicagoVinny - Wednesday, Aug 29, 18 @ 9:42 am:

    Finding out JB opposes the private school tax credits makes me want to vote for him more, not less.

  8. - A guy - Wednesday, Aug 29, 18 @ 9:43 am:

    The ad is a gut punch.
    There should be a stand alone ad about him taking tax credits and not paying state taxes. That one deserves it’s own stage.
    This one will sting.

  9. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Aug 29, 18 @ 9:43 am:

    It’s a good ad.
    It’s flawed in that it isn’t low income kids taking tax credits. They are utilizing the tax credits taken by the ultra rich. The ad makes it sound as if JB won’t allow poor people to take any actual income tax credits on their taxes. That’s a lot different than poor people taking rich peoples money to go to Catholic school.

  10. - Bemused - Wednesday, Aug 29, 18 @ 9:44 am:

    The wife and I did not have children yet we pay property taxes that go to help educate other folks kids. I do not have an issue with this as I believe in an educated population. Where I do have an issue is with my tax money going towards the indoctrination of someone’s kids into a religious or political agenda. If you want to send your kids some place other than public schools that’s okay but you pay for it.

  11. - Grandson of Man - Wednesday, Aug 29, 18 @ 9:45 am:

    CTU is a large group of voters, so this reminds them Rauner is for privatization and in the camp of DeVos and Trump. Pritzker will need them to vote for him in large numbers.

    Will we ever get to Rauner runnin’ on his record? Is that not suspicious to voters, someone in office for four years and not a peep about his or her accomplishments?

  12. - Cubs in '16 - Wednesday, Aug 29, 18 @ 9:51 am:

    It’s interesting to read the different takes on this. As an independent non-insider, my first reaction was similar to A guy’s. I don’t know if it will move the needle for Rauner but it certainly stings and will resonate with the average, non-insider voter.

  13. - Trapped in the 'burbs - Wednesday, Aug 29, 18 @ 9:56 am:

    This coming from the rich guy who clouted his kid into a CPS magnet school. Taking a spot from a deserving public school kid didn’t bother him, this seems like hypocrisy. Now the multi-millionaire gets to rip the billionaire for his wealth. We live in interesting times.

  14. - Arsenal - Wednesday, Aug 29, 18 @ 10:05 am:

    I’ve said this before whenever Rauner tries to attack on this issue and it’s still true: There’s a massive intensity gap on this issue. Most voters just don’t care, but the ones who dislike it HATE it, while the ones who like it are even kind of lukewarm on it.

  15. - Henry Francis - Wednesday, Aug 29, 18 @ 10:09 am:

    Considering the lackluster response to the program (lack of people seeking the credits) it shouldn’t be that big a deal. But with low information voters it may look bad.

    Wasn’t this program just the Guv’s attempt to kiss and make up with the cardinal after lying to him about HB 40?

    As an aside, what is with the footage of JB driving in a car and then looking at the camera in the passenger seat? What’s the point of that?

  16. - Annonin' - Wednesday, Aug 29, 18 @ 10:11 am:

    Falls flat and wait til the super duper fact checkers get going (teee hee)
    Tax credits go to wealthy no poor kids.
    Program hit a wall and is currently listed as a near failure.
    U.S.Treasury new anti-SALT work around rules look like they will hurt these programs according to POLITICO Tax.
    More GovJunk money well spent.

  17. - Pundent - Wednesday, Aug 29, 18 @ 10:14 am:

    I agree with the hypocrisy when compared to clouting his kid into Payton Prep. But I’m not sure who this ad is intended to influence. The scholarship program had little take-up and any one familiar with it will know that it wasn’t a tax credit for low income students.

    Rauner needs to think about how he gets his numbers up. I don’t think his strategy of dragging Pritzker down is getting him much. He’s an incumbent running like he hasn’t held office. His strategy only highlights that he has no accomplishments to speak of. And if he feels that this scholarship program was in fact a big win why not make the case?

  18. - A guy - Wednesday, Aug 29, 18 @ 10:18 am:

    One thing that is very important to remember is how much stress is relieved on the public school system by the number of students in private schools. In it’s own way, that helps quite a bit.

  19. - Sue - Wednesday, Aug 29, 18 @ 10:22 am:

    Newsflash- the new Treasury Regs make the deduction unlawful. Why fight over something soon to be a memory’s

  20. - Henry Francis - Wednesday, Aug 29, 18 @ 10:30 am:

    Wondering if this was the inspiration for the shot of JB driving and looking over at the passenger seat.

  21. - Texas Red - Wednesday, Aug 29, 18 @ 10:41 am:

    This will play well in area’s with failing
    schools, like CPS and Elgin U46.

  22. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Aug 29, 18 @ 10:42 am:

    –Newsflash- the new Treasury Regs make the deduction unlawful–

    It’s a state income tax credit, not a federal tax deduction.

  23. - Whatever - Wednesday, Aug 29, 18 @ 10:42 am:

    Sue - Illinois law already prohibited claiming the credit if you claimed a federal deduction for the contribution, so the proposed Treasury regs don’t change anything in this case.

  24. - Jocko - Wednesday, Aug 29, 18 @ 10:55 am:

    Like others have said, JB should pay a focus group to see if this leaves a mark.

    If so, JB should point out that support for the tax credit is flagging -and- Rauner took a space from a deserving CPS student rather than let his daughter attend New Trier…where she SHOULD have gone based on residency.

  25. - Support? - Wednesday, Aug 29, 18 @ 11:14 am:

    must have missed news where program is considered ho-hum? last saw where the program has generated millions in donations and more than 50,000 students applied for the scholarships (most were awarded in Chicago region)

  26. - Anon - Wednesday, Aug 29, 18 @ 11:15 am:

    The IRS is not allowing these work arounds on SALT.

    Came out last week.

    It is going to hit the progressive income tax proposal in this state like a gut punch when people see their tax bill for the first time next year and realize that JB wants a huge increase on top of the one that is coming in 2019 from the Feds.

  27. - dbk - Wednesday, Aug 29, 18 @ 11:16 am:

    A few points:

    1) Illinois’s scholarship tax credit program is the largest ever initiated in the U.S. It also awards the most generous scholarships - up to nearly $13,000.

    2) The primary beneficiaries in Year 1 (2018-2019) are Catholic schools in Chicago, as had been anticipated given their large numbers.

    3) Of these, those who gained the most are well-known schools which already possess big donor bases and a well-developed PR program, so they got out ahead and advertised it - to their own students, first and foremost.

    4) With respect to “relieving” CPS of students, er, no. CPS schools are already suffering severe drops in population as a result of charters in the poorest neighborhoods, and while “hold harmless” (SB1) will protect them for a short time, eventually they’ll be deprived of desperately-needed funding as they lose students to private Catholic institutions.

    4) It isn’t just poor students who benefit from the program, nearly 30% are middle-class, a good number of whose parents were already footing the bill (or part of the bill) for their tuition and fees. The program just shifts payment of what had previously been paid by parents/existing scholarships at the wealthier schools.

    5) Also let’s remember that 5% of each “scholarship” is taken by the non-profits which collect/distribute the funds - the largest by far of which is Empower Illinois, which controls 73% of all funds distributed this year.

    6) No scholarship tax credit program has ever been repealed in any of the other states that have them, so what JB said is actually pretty significant.

    For additional details / more points, see

  28. - Ron Burgundy - Wednesday, Aug 29, 18 @ 11:23 am:

    In selling his tax plan, JB might make it clearer that rich folks like him would not only pay more on a percentage basis, but also that they would actually pay. Saying you will pay more is fine and dandy, but when “more” just means greater than zero that’s not enough. He needs to be clear that the credits and loopholes he has taken advantage of will be gone.

  29. - I Miss Bentohs - Wednesday, Aug 29, 18 @ 11:31 am:

    I’m so thankful we have Rauner to look after and care for the poor people of Illinois, especially the children. /s

  30. - Responsa - Wednesday, Aug 29, 18 @ 11:52 am:

    ==Um, they’re not “tax credits for low-income students.”==

    That’s right, but that’s not what it says. The transcript of the ad clearly points out that :”JB Pritzker would end tax credits that *helps* low-income students” –a proposition that’s different from candidate JB’s documented personal use of tax credits for solely his own financial benefit. This is the thrust of the ad and after watching it several times I think that comes through. It’s hard to grade this ads potential effectiveness though, because it is targeted. For some viewers it will hit home and others will just yawn. Voters who are themselves the beneficiaries of various tax credits (or know people who are) may be impacted by the ad differently than voters who don’t understand how tax credits work, or from voters who think that as policy many tax credits are problematic and able to be manipulated.

  31. - JS Mill - Wednesday, Aug 29, 18 @ 12:12 pm:

    =One thing that is very important to remember is how much stress is relieved on the public school system by the number of students in private schools. In it’s own way, that helps quite a bit.=

    This is not an accurate statement, it may be something that private schools would like to push but the impact is often the opposite due to staffing pressures.

    Private school students are still entitled to services like special education and drivers’ education through public schools. And, they can demand services at any time of the year. That can make staffing challenging given that 1) teachers are hard to find and 2) they may only need a part-time person which is even harder find for SPEd. If you are in a special ed coop you may be able to contract services put that is pretty expensive too.

    Some times these students that attend private schools are not resident of the public school district where their private school is located. That is pretty common even in the Chicago metro area.

    That means no property tax revenue for some pretty expensive services. ADA in no longer calculated for GSA, it is based on enrollment. They are not enrolled, at least not full-time so you loose that funding as well.

    Not only do the private schools typically get the high achieving students (which creates another set of issues), when they don’t and a student with an IEP they do not have to provide services- that responsibility goes to the public schools.

    You can agree or disagree with how that works, we just deal with it and serve the students. The idea that private school take the pressure off of public schools is unfounded and it actually makes our jobs more challenging.

  32. - A guy - Wednesday, Aug 29, 18 @ 1:00 pm:

    JSM, If you total up the number of all private school students (whose property taxes for schools are still collected), you think that that number of students that aren’t enrolled in public schools doesn’t take any staffing or cost pressure off of public school districts?

    C’mon man. Just look at Catholic, Lutheran, Montessori, and Christian and Jewish Schools in Chicago alone. That’s a few hundred thousand students just there.

  33. - Doing Human Things - Wednesday, Aug 29, 18 @ 1:17 pm:

    I have one kid in a public school and one in a private school and I don’t want tax money going to support private schools. Sure, there are a few who are lower-income, but the majority of families at the private school that my daughter goes to are upper-middle class and can afford the tuition without any assistance. Take the money and use it to improve struggling public schools. They need it a lot more than most private schools do.

  34. - Cheryl44 - Wednesday, Aug 29, 18 @ 1:48 pm:

    Hey Tex, did you learn how to use an apostrophe in a private school? You should ask for a refund.

  35. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Aug 29, 18 @ 2:25 pm:

    –C’mon man. Just look at Catholic, Lutheran, Montessori, and Christian and Jewish Schools in Chicago alone. That’s a few hundred thousand students just there.–

    No, it’s not. There’s 78,000 students enrolled in Catholic schools in all of Cook and Lake counties. The others are much smaller.

    The scholarship program was a way to funnel tax dollars to the Archdiocese of Chicago, which has been closing schools left and right because of declining enrollment and inability to reach fundraising goals.

  36. - JS Mill - Wednesday, Aug 29, 18 @ 4:05 pm:

    =No, it’s not. There’s 78,000 students enrolled in Catholic schools in all of Cook and Lake counties. The others are much smaller.=

    Word is right (of course) and the last time I saw number on private schools in the entire state it was about 225,000 compared to 2.1 million public. I doubt the numbers have changed much. 10% is not much “relief”.

    =(whose property taxes for schools are still collected),=

    That money is being collected, but if you go back and look at what I wrote, it isn’t helping the people providing the services in a lot of cases.

    It wasn’t an attack on you or your opinions (I am trying to be more civil) I was just trying to address the narrative I have heard before and in my experiences, which span urban, suburban, and rural, the reality is very different.

  37. - edforall - Wednesday, Aug 29, 18 @ 7:13 pm:

    Rich, you wrote: “This is in spite of the fact that Pritzker paid zero state income tax in 2014 due in part to him claiming tax credits for educational expenses.” To be fair, the ad doesn’t allege JB claimed credits for educational expenses.

    On the other hand, the ad does make a fair point that JB claimed tax credits that resulted in less state revenue, of which a portion goes to public education. And JB attended expensive private schools but wants to deny that opportunity to struggling families.

    I truly don’t understand those (like DBK) who decry that the program is primarily helping those already attending private school AND claim that public schools will lose students to private schools through the program. We can have rational and honest dialogue, but to argue that is neither rational, nor honest.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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