Another Victory for School Choice: Illinois Supreme Court Declines to Hear Appeal of Tuition Tax Credit Case

John Kramer
John Kramer · June 29, 2001

Washington, D.C.- In yet another victory for Illinois families, the Supreme Court of Illinois today refused to reconsider the ruling of the Fourth District Court of Appeals that the Illinois educational expenses tax credit law is constitutional. The ruling of the three-judge panel in February affirmed last April’s ruling by Judge Thomas Appleton of the Sangamon County Circuit Court also finding the tax credit to be fully constitutional. The tax credit was under attack from the Illinois Education Association and other special-interest organizations opposed to education reform.

“This is the sixth consecutive court to have upheld the constitutionality of this form of school choice,” said Institute for Justice President Chip Mellor. “Today’s Illinois Supreme Court decision should bring an end to the constitutional battle over the tax credit law and help parents get the best possible education for their children regardless of whether the school of their choice is public, private or parochial.”

The teachers’ union and its allies had argued that the law, which provides a credit against state income taxes for 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, violated four provisions of the Illinois Constitution, two of which deal with establishment of religion. Each of the courts to hear the case, however, has emphatically rejected these arguments.

The Supreme Court’s decision let stand a ruling by Appellate Court Judge Rita Garman stating that the tax credit does not violate the Illinois Constitution because no public money is spent at religious schools. Rather, 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.

The appellate court’s ruling went on to say, however, that the tax credit would still be constitutional even if one considered the money claimed through the credit to constitute public funds. This is because the tax credit is fully consistent with both U.S. Supreme Court and Illinois Supreme Court precedent indicating that programs providing general educational assistance are constitutional so long as religious and nonreligious options are treated equally and funds are guided by the private and independent choices of parents.

This lawsuit is the second attacking the constitutionality of the tax credit. Earlier this year, the Illinois Supreme Court refused to hear a similar case filed by the Illinois Federation of Teachers that also challenged the constitutionality of the Illinois educational expenses tax credit law. The Institute represents Illinois families in that case as well.



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