Illinois

Illinois

Both before and after Espinoza, Illinois was a friendly environment for tax credit, voucher, and education savings account programs. Although the state has a Blaine Amendment, its appellate courts have upheld tuition tax credits from legal challenges. Moreover, the Illinois Supreme Court has approved the use of public funds to transport private school students and to pay for childcare services at religious institutions. Finally, in Board of Education v. Bakalis and Trost v. Ketteler Manual Training School, the Illinois Supreme Court permitted some public support for children attending religious schools, which suggests the state supreme court understands such aid supports children, not schools.

IJ projects Illinois will be friendly to educational choice programs in the future. Illinois’s Blaine Amendment discriminates against religious educational options in the same manner as the Montana Blaine Amendment that was at issue in Espinoza. It thus cannot be invoked to prohibit religious educational options from a generally available choice program. As such, both publicly funded and tax-credit incentivized programs are options for Illinois policymakers.

Constitutional Provisions
Compelled Support Clause
“No person shall be required to attend or support any ministry or place of worship against his consent .…” Illinois Const. Art. I, § 3.

Blaine Amendment
“Neither the General Assembly nor any county, city, town, township, school district, or other public corporation, shall ever make any appropriation or pay from any public fund whatever, anything in aid of any church or sectarian purpose, or to help support or sustain any school, academy, seminary, college, university, or other literary or scientific institution, controlled by any church or sectarian denomination whatever; nor shall any grant or donation of land, money, or other personal property ever be made by the State, or any such public corporation, to any church, or for any sectarian purpose.” Illinois Const. Art. X, § 3.

 

Relevant Case Law
Board of Education v. Bakalis, 299 N.E.2d 737 (Ill. 1973)
The Illinois Supreme Court held that a statute requiring public school buses to transport private school students did not violate Illinois’ Blaine Amendment because it was primarily a health-and-safety measure for the benefit of all students and any aid to religious schools chosen by families was incidental.

People ex rel. Klinger v. Howlett, 305 N.E.2d 129 (Ill. 1973)
The Illinois Supreme Court held that the state cannot provide tuition grants to private elementary schools with no restrictions on the use of public funds because it could lead to public subsidization of religious services. Such subsidization would violate Illinois’ Blaine Amendment and the federal Establishment Clause, which the Court held impose identical restrictions on the establishment of official religions. In addition, the Court held that the state could not treat private school students and public school students differently with respect to textbooks and nursing services.

Cecrle v. Illinois Educational Facilities Authority, 288 N.E.2d 399 (Ill. 1972)
The Illinois Supreme Court held that the state could make tax-exempt bonds available to private, religious institutions without violating the federal Establishment Clause or the Illinois Constitution.

Trost v. Ketteler Manual Training School, 118 N.E. 743 (Ill. 1918)
The Illinois Supreme Court held that the state can use public funds to pay for childcare services at religious institutions because the children are not required to attend religious services and the schools receive no reimbursement for expenses associated with religious instruction.

Nichols v. School Directors, 93 Ill. 61 (1879)
The Illinois Supreme Court held that allowing public school buildings to be used for religious ceremonies when the schools are not in session does not compel a person to support a religion in violation of Illinois’ Compelled Support Clause.

Toney v. Bower, 744 N.E.2d 351 (Ill. App. 4th Dist. 2001), appeal denied, 195 Ill. 2d 573 (Ill. 2001); and Griffith v. Bower, 747 N.E.2d 423 (Ill. App. 5th Dist. 2001), appeal denied, 258 Ill. Dec. 94, 755 N.E.2d 477 (Ill. 2001)
Two Illinois courts of appeal held that Illinois’ tax credit for educational expenses is constitutional because it has a clearly secular legislative purpose of ensuring a well-educated citizenry and relieving public expense, has the primary effect of effectuating those purposes, and involves no more government entanglement with religion than many other state tax laws. The program is constitutional under both Illinois’ Blaine Amendment and the federal Establishment Clause. Illinois courts interpret the state Blaine Amendment consistently with federal Establishment Clause case law.

Existing Private School Choice Programs
Tax Credits for Educational Expenses
35 Illinois Compiled Statutes 5/201m

What You've Heard About Blaine Amendments

Blaine Amendments are controversial state constitutional provisions rooted in 19th century anti-Catholic bigotry. Their original purpose was to prevent the government from funding Catholic schools while preserving funding for America’s nascent “common” schools, which were predominantly Protestant and often inhospitable to Catholics. For decades, opponents of educational choice have employed Blaine Amendments—found in 37 state constitutions—as blunt weapons to impede and invalidate educational choice programs. However, thanks to a decades-long legal strategy tenaciously pursued by IJ, these state constitutional obstacles to educational freedom are now largely a dead letter.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2002, in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, that the federal Constitution allows states to empower parents to choose religious and nonreligious schools alike when participating in educational choice programs so long as the state remains religiously neutral and parents exercise true private choice. But Zelman left open the question of whether the constitution would permit a state to exclude religious options from an educational choice program. On June 30, 2020, in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, the Court answered that open question and held that the federal Constitution forbids states from excluding religious schools as options for families participating in educational choice programs, including through Blaine Amendments.

The federal Constitution, wrote Chief Justice Roberts for the Espinoza majority, “condemns discrimination against religious schools and the families whose children attend them. They are members of the community too, and their exclusion from [Montana’s] scholarship program here is odious to our Constitution and cannot stand.” The Supreme Court’s holding was clear and unambiguous—and it applies to every state: While a “State need not subsidize private education[,] . . . once a State decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.”

As a result of Espinoza, nearly every state is free to enact programs that will empower parents to choose the educational environment that is best for their own children. Of course, each state has a unique history, context, and constitutional provisions. That is why IJ has produced this 50-state guide. The guide analyzes each state’s constitution in light of Espinoza and explains how the ruling impacts policymakers’ ability to enact educational choice programs.

What You Need to Know After Espinoza

Blaine Amendments are controversial state constitutional provisions rooted in 19th century anti-Catholic bigotry. Their original purpose was to prevent the government from funding Catholic schools while preserving funding for America’s nascent “common” schools, which were predominantly Protestant and often inhospitable to Catholics. For decades, opponents of educational choice have employed Blaine Amendments—found in 37 state constitutions—as blunt weapons to impede and invalidate educational choice programs. However, thanks to a decades-long legal strategy tenaciously pursued by IJ, these state constitutional obstacles to educational freedom are now largely a dead letter.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2002, in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, that the federal Constitution allows states to empower parents to choose religious and nonreligious schools alike when participating in educational choice programs so long as the state remains religiously neutral and parents exercise true private choice. But Zelman left open the question of whether the constitution would permit a state to exclude religious options from an educational choice program. On June 30, 2020, in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, the Court answered that open question and held that the federal Constitution forbids states from excluding religious schools as options for families participating in educational choice programs, including through Blaine Amendments.

The federal Constitution, wrote Chief Justice Roberts for the Espinoza majority, “condemns discrimination against religious schools and the families whose children attend them. They are members of the community too, and their exclusion from [Montana’s] scholarship program here is odious to our Constitution and cannot stand.” The Supreme Court’s holding was clear and unambiguous—and it applies to every state: While a “State need not subsidize private education[,] . . . once a State decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.”

As a result of Espinoza, nearly every state is free to enact programs that will empower parents to choose the educational environment that is best for their own children. Of course, each state has a unique history, context, and constitutional provisions. That is why IJ has produced this 50-state guide. The guide analyzes each state’s constitution in light of Espinoza and explains how the ruling impacts policymakers’ ability to enact educational choice programs.

Select Your State

Program Status
All Educational Choice Programs
Only Tax Credit and ESA Programs
Educational Choice Programs Unavailable

For More Information

Read Our Model Education Legislation


Contact IJ's Educational Choice Team

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