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Illinois Plans to Use Tax Credits to Send Thousands of Students to Private Schools

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Illinois lawmakers have passed the state's first private school choice program, joining nearly 30 other states that either use public money or government incentives to help students pay for private school tuition.

Such programs have become something of the education policy du jour under President Donald Trump and his education secretary, Betsy DeVos. 

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Folded into the larger overhaul of Illinois' education funding formula, the program will use tax credits to encourage people to donate money for low- and middle-income students to attend private schools.

Tax-credit scholarships, as such programs are generally called, have also been eyed by the Trump administration as a possible model for a nationwide private school choice program.

Illinois' program was one of the more controversial elements in the debates over the funding formula, as my colleague Daarel Burnette II wrote on the State EdWatch blog:

"After years of political wrangling that divided the state both politically and regionally, Illinois' Senate Tuesday gave the green light to a new school funding formula, that provides poor and rural districts with more money and expands tax credit scholarships. Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner said he will soon sign it into law.

"... Over the last several weeks, the House, Senate, and governor have been at a standoff over two key portions of the funding formula: how much money the state would provide Chicago Public Schools to pay down its ballooning teacher pension costs, and whether the funding formula would allow for tax-credit scholarships. The compromise provides for both."

The tax-credit scholarship program will expire after five years if lawmakers do not renew it.

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