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Bertino-Tarrant: Put public schools before wealthy donors

jbt 030918SPRINGFIELD- State Senator Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant (D-Shorewood) continues to push for proper funding of Illinois’ schools.

A new bill she sponsors will continue that effort by prohibiting the diversion of public funds to scholarship tax programs in any calendar year unless the state has appropriated the $300 million in added education funding required annually by the new school funding formula.

“The state has a constitutional responsibility to fund public education, and this will do so without hurting private schools,” Bertino-Tarrant said. “The state must meet the minimum funding formula before we hand out tax credits to wealthy donors and corporations.”

Bertino-Tarrant introduced the bill in response to a 5-year tax credit scholarship pilot program which allows individuals and companies that donate to private school scholarship organizations to receive tax credits up to 75 percent of the amount donated.

Senate Bill 2236 prohibits those tax credits in any year the minimum funding level is not met. Bertino-Tarrant stressed this bill does not eliminate the Invest in Kids Act, it simply holds legislators accountable and increases transparency in the use of taxpayer dollars for rebates to wealthy donors.

“As a mother, educator and a product of Catholic schools, I am a fierce advocate of giving our children the best possible educational opportunities, but we should not be working toward weakening the infrastructure of public schools across our communities,” Bertino-Tarrant said. “This scholarship program, as it stands, is not a tax credit for working families to send their children to private schools – it is designed to incentivize donors.”

Bertino-Tarrant said the General Assembly and the public were not given enough time to consider the merits of the program before a vote last year.

“After five years of negotiations, the Invest in Kids program was rammed into the legislation at the eleventh hour without proper vetting by legislators or the public,” Bertino-Tarrant said. “There is a lack of transparency within the program that doesn’t allow the taxpayers of Illinois to know who is receiving state dollars.”

Credits awarded are capped at $1 million per taxpayer and $75 million statewide, but there is no mechanism that allows the public to see who is receiving taxpayer funded tax credits.

“I will continue to introduce this measure until our schools are properly funded as agreed on in the bipartisan school funding reform,” Bertino-Tarrant said.  “Otherwise children across our state will never see an end to the rampant disparities in school resources and funding we see today.”

AUDIO:

Sen. Bertino-Tarrant

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49th Senate District

Years served: 2013 - Present

Associated Representatives: Mark Batinick; Natalie A. Manley

Committee assignments: Appropriations II; Education (Chairperson); Labor; Licensed Activities and Pensions; Transportation.

Biography: Lifelong educator; former Will County superintendent and secretary of Will County Regional Board of School Trustees; B.A., Illinois State University; MS, University of St. Francis; EdD., Loyola.