The Illinois Tuition Tax Credit: Who Gets the Credit? Who Pays the Consequences?


Last year’s PFAW Foundation report on Illinois’ tuition tax credit law, Misplaying the Angles, explained that its title was drawn from remarks made by a leading supporter of Arizona’s tuition tax credit law. Confronted with data showing that low-income families in Arizona were receiving little, if any, benefit from her state’s law, a spokesperson for the Goldwater Institute was surprisingly candid. “Has it only helped [poor families] more than moderate and wealthy families?” asked Goldwater’s Darcy Olsen. “Probably not. If it was sold that way, it’s only an angle.” 34

In Illinois, as in Arizona, the data builds a compelling case that tuition tax credits have not lived up to their billing as a vehicle to improve educational options and learning for poor children. Instead, the ’99 law has subsidized middle- and upper-income taxpayers, draining tax revenues that could have gone to fund programs targeting the needs of low-income, disadvantaged students. This impact would be troubling in any state, but its consequences are keenly felt in a state like Illinois, which already ranks poorly in nationwide measures for funding the education of its low-income students.

People For the American Way

Ralph G. Neas, President
Jan Czarnik, Illinois Director
Nancy Keenan, Director of Education Policy
Arohi Pathak, Education Analyst

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