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Empower Illinois understands and appreciates the effort to resolve the recognition issue facing many private K-12 schools in Illinois. All quality private schools deserve access to the Tax Credit Scholarship Program provided by the Invest in Kids Act.

After the passage of SB1947, many private schools found themselves investigating how to participate in the tax credit program.

While many were registered with the Illinois State Board of Education, a significant number had not pursued recognition, a voluntary process many deemed unnecessary in the private school marketplace.

While Governor Rauner’s amendatory veto of SB444 aimed to allow these schools to participate this year, it went too far, decreasing the standard schools need to meet in order to participate, and imperiling the positive funding opportunities of SB444.

Empower Illinois believes that a compromise can be reached, which will increase the number of schools that can participate in the program without decreasing their quality, instead improving the standards that allow participation in the program. The compromise, if signed by the Governor, will also allow SB444 to become law.

EI urges legislators to refile SB444, with the following amendment added:

“Qualified school” means a non-public school located in Illinois and recognized by the Board pursuant to Section 2-3.25o of the School Code or accredited by an accrediting agency approved by the Board. A non-public school shall become a qualified school immediately upon being recognized by the Board or immediately upon having their accreditation status approved by the Board.

Accreditation, like recognition, is a detailed review process, but it goes further — it not only looks at the health and safety at non-public schools, but also a school’s academic quality.

Further, it is our position that if a school is recognized or accredited in the 2017-2018 school year, IDOR should allow SGOs to list these schools for donors to donate to, and for students to receive scholarships. Of course, SGOs would not be able to submit payment to these schools until they officially become recognized or upon adoption of the suggested amendment, accredited too.

This amendment would not unnecessarily hold up critical public-school funding in Illinois while also increasing the number, and quality of non-public schools that can participate in the first year of the tax credit scholarship program.

It’s a win-win for all; especially the children who are our priority.

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