To the Editor:
As parents, teachers, and public education advocates, we write to express our disappointment with State Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie’s (D-25) and State Senator Kwame Raoul’s (D-13) votes approving education privatization in the form of tax credit scholarships.
First, we take issue with the principle.
Tax credit scholarships allow wealthy individuals and corporations to earmark their tax dollars to scholarships for private education — even to designate specific private schools — leaving the rest of us to pay taxes for the common good.
In May, letters to Gov. Bruce Rauner, Currie and Raoul expressed their opposition to tax credit scholarships stating that that they are “fundamentally incompatible with the effort to address the inadequate and inequitable education funding system (in Illinois).” In the end, they ceded to what is clearly a Rauner/Trump/DeVos move towards more privatization rather than taking leadership in the fight against diverting tax dollars away from public schools.
Next, we take issue with the math.
Currie argues that $75 million is small, but as Eric Zorn (Chicago Tribune 8/29/2017) points out, it will be among the largest tax credit scholarship programs in the nation. It is telling that Currie seeks to minimize the impact of the program – it is actually a $100 million program (scholarship contributions of $100 million yield $75 million in tax credits to donors) with up to 5 percent going to organizations that will administer the scholarships. On top of that there will be the administrative costs our cash-strapped state will incur in order to process tax giveaways to wealthy donors while making sure private and parochial schools receive what Jim Rigg, Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese, recently termed a “windfall.” Meanwhile, Currie fails to mention Illinois currently contributes less than any state in the nation toward public education – missing its own mark for adequate support by billions.
Finally, we take issue with the lack of transparency in the process.
This was a manufactured emergency and political theater to enact legislation already agreed to behind closed doors. The legislation was rushed through with no regard to democratic process. Legislators received the 500+ page document only a day before voting, with no opportunity for public comment on the legislation itself. Democracy was not served in this process. Rep. Currie and Sen. Raoul disappointed their constituencies and let down the children of Illinois with their approval of the bill. Currie’s co-sponsorship of the “compromise” that brought a tax credit scheme into what was promoted as school funding equity legislation is particularly galling.
Jennifer L. Cohen
Kristy Ulrich Papczun