Illinois: Poised to Empower Latinos Through More School Choice

This week, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law a bipartisan bill creating a tax credit scholarship program. The bill also establishes a charter funding equity.

The legislation is poised to empower more Hispanic and Latino parents and children in Illinois with greater school choice and quality education.

In the U.S., education remains a top concern for Hispanics and Latinos. It is viewed as the great equalizer — the best mechanism for leveling the playing field and fostering upward social and economic mobility.

Currently, more than 2 million Hispanics live in Illinois, with about 63 percent of Hispanic eligible voters in the state owning their own homes.

It is a very entrepreneurial community — one that values quality education, jobs, ownership, and family wealth creation opportunities. However, of all of these, education is a key threshold issue that can open more doors for individual and family economic empowerment.

Meanwhile, a lack of English proficiency or knowledge about how to access critical information can pose significant hurdles for some parents, especially those in immigrant or mixed-status households. Whatever the status, all parents want what’s best for their children.

The next important step for government officials and school choice advocates in Illinois is to evaluate whether adequate information is easily accessible, and whether it is getting to all families — including Hispanics and Latinos.

It is critical that these parents understand all of the new options available to them with passage of this bill. It also will be important to share this community’s success stories and inspiring testimonials with Hispanic and Latino Illinoisans, regardless of immigration status.

According to The American Federation for Children (AFC), an advocacy organization for educational choice, the new law “includes a tax credit scholarship program that will collect $100 million for scholarships … [and] includes funding equity for charter school students.”

Additionally, “Charter students who were not fully funded will see an increase of approximately $2,000 per student per year going toward their education.”

Another important aspect of the bill is that, while it endeavors to help the poorest families first, it does not create a disincentive for low-income families that achieve a moderate rise in income.

“The income limit for the tax credit scholarship recipients’ families will be 300 percent of the federal poverty line, and a recipient can stay in the program if the family income rises to 400 percent. Children from poorer families, or those in districts with a failing school, will be first in line,” an AFC press release states.

Overall, passage of this bill should bring much encouragement to those parents who may find themselves frustrated with their children’s current school performance.

Here are some additional resources on school choice and closing the achievement gap:

Think Freely Latino: What are charter schools – and are they right for your family?

Think Freely Latino (en español): ¿Qué son las escuelas chárter – y son la opción correcta para su familia?

EdChoice: Know the Options and Funding Available to Students

National Alliance for Public Charter Schools: Charter Public Schools Serving Hispanic Communities

Illinois Policy Institute, Achievement Gap page

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