For families facing sudden financial difficulties, private school tuition might become a low priority for stretched budgets — but there’s help out there. The Illinois Tax Credit Scholarship program offers tuition assistance for families who meet income thresholds. There are no merit components to eligibility.
“The Illinois Tax Credit Scholarship is a program that is in its final year of a pilot on behalf of the state to offer opportunities for working families who are struggling financially and have access to opportunity for scholarship support for a private school in any part of the state of Illinois," explained the Rev. Brendan Curran, organizer at the Resurrection Project. "Private school — meaning Christian, Catholic, Lutheran, Muslim, Jewish and any nonpublic school.”
The Resurrection Project is working with Big Shoulders Fund and Empower Illinois to promote the scholarships. Curran said that though the fund has some corporate sponsors, it is primarily driven by individual donors.
Applications for the Big Shoulders Fund opened Jan. 12. Empower Illinois’ applications open Jan. 18. It’s free to apply to both. Families looking for language or other assistance with applying can call 800-616-7606.
“The state’s involved only at the back end,” Curran said. “On the front end, donors of any sort of any economic profile give donations and receive 75% back as a tax credit to their household for that contribution to whatever private school you wish or system you wish throughout the state of Illinois. And then on the other end, families apply and based on the donations and donors who have offered that donation, they have that accessibility to the scholarship money they need.”
“This program was intentionally set up for access for families who don't have the financial means to have the option they prefer to attend or continue. The vast majority are families who want to continue and survive in the school they're already in,” Curran continued. “Ordinary folks trying to make ends meet … It's simply for giving access for more equity.”