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Illinois

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.

Vouchers: Yes

Tax Credits: Yes


Existing Private School Choice Programs

Tax Credits for Educational Expenses

35 Illinois Compiled Statutes 5/201m

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.

Analysis and Recommendations

Both tax credit and voucher programs are school choice options for Illinois. In the most recent cases, Illinois’ tax credit program was upheld from challenges under both the Establishment Clause and Illinois’ Religion Clauses. Two state appellate courts upheld the program in Toney v. Bower and Griffith v. Bower, and the Illinois Supreme Court let those decisions stand without reviewing them.

The Illinois Constitution contains both a Compelled Support Clause and a Blaine Amendment, but the Illinois Supreme Court has found only direct, unrestricted payments of public funds to religious schools unconstitutional. It approved the transportation of private school students at public expense and the use of public funds to pay for childcare services at religious institutions. 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 Court understands that such aid supports children, not schools.

Model Legislation: Education Savings Account, Parental Choice Scholarship Program (Universal Eligibility), Parental Choice Scholarship Program (Means-Tested Eligibility), Special Needs Scholarship Program, Foster Child Scholarship Program, Autism Scholarship, Great Schools Tax Credit Program, Family Education Tax Credit Program

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