Tuition tax credits a costly boondoggle

In reviewing Burney Simpson's Legislative Checklist in the June issue (see page 9), I was struck by three items that illuminate the controversy surrounding giving state dollars via the tuition tax credit program to parents who send their children to private and parochial schools.

The first was the passage of the bill itself, notwithstanding the certain lawsuits to be filed by the Illinois Education Association and the ACLU. Will any monies given through this program be refunded to the state should the courts overturn the law? Should the estimated $60 million to $150 million this program will take from the public schools be put in escrow?

The next item in the column was the teacher credentials measure that requires public elementary and secondary school teachers to continue training to qualify for recertification by the state.

Part of the program would force teachers to create a five-year development plan that would be reviewed by other teachers, the district superintendent, parents and the business community at a cost of $25 to the teacher. In light of private and parochial schools now feeding from the public trough, should not their teachers nuns, priests and lay people also undergo this rigorous scrutiny?

Finally, a bill passed that provides an independent arbitrator to resolve disputes over principal dismissal in the public schools of Chicago. Again, shouldn't this sort of due process procedure be put into place in all schools since they all now will be the beneficiary of the state's largess?

The measure was sold as a relief package for parents who otherwise may not be able to send their children to private/parochial schools. That argument would hold more water if a line were inserted into the law that prevented the schools from raising tuition by an amount that will certainly coincide with the maximum credit allowed. Without such language the "struggling" private/parochial school parents will not find themselves any better off.

This measure is a boondoggle whose impact will be felt for years to come.

Timothy Thomas Jr.

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40 / July/August 1999 Illinois Issues

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