Washington, D.C.- In a significant victory for school choice supporters, Judge Thomas Appleton of the Sangamon County Circuit Court today dismissed the lawsuit filed by the Illinois Education Association and various other organizations challenging the constitutionality of the Illinois educational expenses tax credit law.
The teachers’ union and its allies had argued that the law, which provides a credit against state income taxes for twenty-five 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, violated four provisions of the Illinois Constitution, two of which deal with establishment of religion. The court, however, rejected these arguments out of hand, finding that the tax credit was constitutional and going so far as to label one of the union’s arguments “absurd.”
This lawsuit was the second attacking the constitutionality of the tax credit. Last December, Judge Loren P. Lewis of the Franklin County Circuit Court dismissed a similar suit filed by the Illinois Federation of Teachers, also holding that the credit is fully constitutional.
“This is a great day for the parents and children of Illinois,” said Matthew Berry, staff attorney at the Institute for Justice, which represented twelve Illinois families in defending the tax credit’s constitutionality. “The teachers’ unions and other opponents of meaningful education reform have taken two shots at school choice in Illinois and are now 0 for 2.”
In dismissing the lawsuit, Judge Appleton pointed out that the tax credit allows Illinois parents to keep more of their own money to spend on the education of their children as they see fit and does not involve the expenditure of government money.
“While this decision will no doubt be appealed,” Berry commented, “we are confident that it will be affirmed. The tax credit is equally available for expenses incurred at public, private, and religious schools. The law creates no incentive for parents to choose religious schools over nonreligious schools; rather it simply provides greater opportunity for parents to send their children to schools of their choice.”
The Institute for Justice also represents Illinois families in the first lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the tax credit, filed by the Illinois Federation of Teachers in Franklin County. In that case, the union has appealed Judge Lewis’ ruling to the Fifth District Court of Appeals.