Washington, D.C.-On Friday, November 5, at 9:30 a.m., twelve Illinois families represented by the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Justice will ask the Circuit Court of Franklin County Illinois in Benton, Ill., to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Illinois Educational Expenses Tax Credit. The law allows parents to take a credit on state income taxes for 25 percent of tuition and other educational expenses incurred after January 1, 2000, up to a maximum of $500.
The plaintiffs in this suit, who include the ACLU, the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, and their local chapters, allege that the tax credit violates two provisions of the Illinois Constitution, forbidding the appropriations of public funds to religious schools and the granting of preferences to religious denominations. The Institute, however, will argue the tax credit is “neutral” on the Church/State issue because it can be claimed at any school, religious or secular, public or private. The Institute’s clients, for example, send their children to public, private secular, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim schools.
“The parents we represent are united by their desire to secure the best possible education for their children,” declared Matthew Berry, an Institute attorney who will help argue the case. “This tax credit does not involve one cent of public funds. It merely allows Illinois parents keep more of their own money to spend on their children’s education as they see fit.”
To utilize the tax credit, parents-not the government-make the private and independent choice of where to send their child to school.
The Illinois plan differs from an Arizona law recently upheld by the Arizona Supreme Court in that taxpayers receive credit for their own children’s educational expenses instead of for donations to scholarship funds. Opponents of the Arizona plan unsuccessfully sought U.S. Supreme Court review, but earlier this term the Court declined to review the program thereby leaving it in place.
The Institute for Justice is a libertarian public interest law firm. Through strategic litigation, training, communications, and outreach, the Institute for Justice advances a rule of law under which individuals can control their own destinies as free and responsible members of society. It litigates to secure economic liberty, school choice, private property rights, freedom of speech, and other vital individual liberties, and to restore constitutional limits on the power of government. In addition, it trains law students, lawyers, and policy activists in the tactics of public interest litigation to advance individual rights. Through these activities the Institute challenges the ideology of the welfare state and illustrates and extends the benefits of freedom to those whose full enjoyment of liberty is denied by government. The Institute was founded in September 1991 by William Mellor and Clint Bolick.