Latest School Choice Challenge Offers Little New In Substantive Arguments

John Kramer
John Kramer · November 11, 1999

Washington, D.C.-Today the Washington-DC based Institute for Justice moved to intervene in the latest challenge to the constitutionality of the Illinois Educational Expenses Tax Credit.

The tax credit, which 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, is being challenged by an array of special interest groups. The group, led by the Illinois Education Association, filed a lawsuit in Sangamon County Circuit Court alleging that the tax credit violates various provisions of the Illinois Constitution. In July, the Illinois Federation of Teachers filed a similar lawsuit in Franklin County Circuit Court.

The Institute for Justice represents 12 Illinois families who wish to take advantage of the tax credit. The Institute also represents these families as interveners/defendants in the Franklin County lawsuit.

“Although our clients send their children to a diverse range of schools-public, Montessori, Christian, Jewish and Muslim-they are united by their desire to secure the best possible educational opportunities for their children,” said Matthew Berry, an Institute staff attorney. “The educational expense tax credit will allow these and other Illinois families to keep more of their own money to spend on their children as they see fit.”

The latest lawsuit repeats the claims of the earlier one, alleging the tax credit violates the religious establishment provisions of the Illinois Constitution. But the latest lawsuit also advances a new argument that the tax credit is unconstitutional because it will not benefit those who do not pay taxes.

“The opponents of meaningful education reform are obviously desperate when they resort to such absurd arguments,” declared Clint Bolick, the Institute for Justice’s litigation director.

“Moreover,” Berry added, “this latest lawsuit puts the teachers’ union in the ridiculous position of arguing that cutting taxes is unconstitutional because doing so discriminates against those who pay little or no taxes.”

The Institute for Justice is a libertarian public interest law firm that defends school choice programs nationwide. The Institute litigated school choice cases in Wisconsin, Maine, Vermont and Arizona; it is currently litigating school choice cases in Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Illinois. The Institute was founded in September 1991 by William Mellor and Clint Bolick.



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