Feb. 28, 2018 Press Release
More than 33,000 Children Apply for Private School Scholarships
Empower Illinois reopens application process
February 28, 2018, Chicago, IL – Thousands of students and families throughout the state began the application process yesterday for K-12 private school scholarships. After just the first evening, Empower Illinois received applications on behalf of more than 33,000 Illinois students.
Tuesday evening marked the first day that students and families could submit their online applications to Empower Illinois to take advantage of the Invest in Kids Act. These scholarships cover up to 100% of private school tuition for low-income and working-class students throughout the state.
“Our mission is to provide as many students as possible with access to the school that best suits their needs,” said Myles Mendoza, Executive Director of Empower Illinois. “We knew demand was strong. Now that the system is operational, we will put every effort toward working with our network schools to raise the funds needed to meet this demand statewide.”
To date, the tax credit scholarship program has received over $45 million in pledged donations. Tax credits are reserved through the Illinois Department of Revenue and provide a 75% credit for each
donation. Donations are made to Scholarship Granting Organizations (SGO’s) throughout Illinois, including Empower Illinois.
Tuesday’s application served as step one of the new two-step system that was designed to make the process easier and less stressful for parents. The organization’s first attempt at releasing its
application failed when demand caused technology problems.
“The success of the Empower Illinois scholarship reservation process is a real win for families across Illinois,” said Dr. Jim Rigg, Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese of Chicago. “I am thrilled by the evident high demand for scholarships. This clearly demonstrates the appeal of quality schools of choice.”
“People from across Illinois came together to make a real difference in the lives of our kids,” explained Scott Dabson, Director of Greater Rockford Area Lutheran Schools. “Our children are our future and we owe it to them to do everything we can to provide for a quality education.”
One mom on the Empower Facebook page noted ‘Thank you for this opportunity. Truly life changing.’
Empower Illinois scholarships are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis and those still interested in applying are encouraged to do so as soon as possible. The application can be found at
The Invest in Kids Act and subsequent tax credit scholarship program represents a major step forward in providing students the chance to get the quality education they need and deserve. The program was established as a bipartisan endeavor by Illinois lawmakers. Empower Illinois is committed to improving access to quality education for every child in every neighborhood.
Jan. 16, 2018 Policy Update
EMPOWER ILLINOIS POLICY STATEMENT
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.