Under the draft proposal reviewed by WBEZ, individual taxpayers could choose to send up to $1 million annually to scholarship organizations rather than to the state Department of Revenue. Those diverted taxpayer dollars would fund scholarships to pay tuition cost at private or parochial schools, or to pay the cost for a public school education in a district outside a child’s community.
All told, the state could dole out $100 million annually in tax credits to finance this scholarship program. If the scholarship fund attracts at least $90 million in donations in any year, it would grow to $125 million. It could continue to grow by 25 percent annually, with no cap, as long as taxpayers send at least 90 percent of the maximum allowed to the fund. Donors could direct their money to a specific school, rather than a specific student, and some eligible students could be turned away.
The proposal is striking in its reach. Any family of four earning up to $113,775 annually would be eligible. In Illinois, 67 percent of families of two or more people earn up to $100,000 a year, according to U.S. Census data.
Another 18 percent of Illinois families earn up to $150,000. The median income is $71,500 for an Illinois family of at least two people, which is how the federal government defines a family.