When Illinois passed an education tax credit program in 1999, it got not one, but two lawsuits from the teachers unions’ challenging the program as unconstitutional. In each case, the Institute for Justice intervened to defend the program on behalf of 12 Illinois families, and in six separate decisions state courts found the program constitutional under both the federal Establishment Clause and the Illinois Constitution’s religion provisions. The Illinois Constitution has both a “compelled support” clause and a Blaine Amendment; neither was found to be an impediment to school choice.
The Illinois Federation of Teachers filed the first case, Griffith v. Bower, in July 1999. The Illinois Education Association, backed by the National Education Association, the ACLU, People for the American Way and other special interest groups, filed a second challenge (Toney v. Bower) in November 1999.
The Illinois Educational Expenses Tax Credit provides a credit against state income taxes for up to 25 percent of tuition, book fees or lab fees incurred by K-12 students at public or private schools up to a maximum of $500 per family.