Illinois

Invest in Kids Program

  • Tax-Credit Scholarship
  • Enacted 2017
  • Launched 2018

Illinois’s Invest in Kids program offers tax credits to individuals and businesses for donations to scholarship-granting organizations (SGOs), nonprofits that provide private school scholarships to low- and middle-income students. Learn more about the program’s details on this page, including eligibility, funding, regulations and more.

We do not administer this program.

  • 7,435

    Students Participating (2019–20)

  • 41%

    of Families with Children Income-eligible Statewide

  • 7

    Scholarship Granting Organizations Awarding Scholarships (2019–20)

  • $7,132

    Average Scholarship Value (2019–20)

  • 40%

    Average Value as a Percentage of State’s Public School Per-student Spending

Invest in Kids Program Participation

Participation
Year Ending

Student Funding

Each SGO determines the amount of the scholarships it distributes, but the baseline scholarship amount cannot exceed the lesser of the state’s average operational expense per pupil (OEPP; $7,132 in 2019-20) and the necessary costs and fees for attendance at the qualified school. Exceptions include:

  • Students identified as gifted and talented children may receive a scholarship worth up to 110 percent of the state’s average OEPP.
  • Students who are English Language Learners may receive a scholarship worth up to 120 percent of the state’s average OEPP.
  • Students who are eligible to receive services under IDEA may receive a scholarship worth up to 200 percent of the state’s average OEPP.

Additionally, maximum scholarship values are segmented by income level unless students meet one of the above exceptions:

  • Students whose household income is less than 185 percent of the poverty level ($48,470 for a family of four in 2020–21) may receive a scholarship worth up to 100 percent of the state’s average OEPP.
  • Students whose household income is between 185 percent and 250 percent of the poverty level ($65,500 for a family of four in 2020–21) may receive, on average, a scholarship worth up to 75 percent of the state’s average OEPP.
  • Students whose household income is 250 percent or more of the federal poverty level may receive, on average, a scholarship worth up to 50 percent of the state’s average OEPP.

SGOs are required to grant priority to the following students who applied by April 1 of the preceding school year: (1) eligible students who previously received a tax-credit scholarship, (2) students from households whose prior year’s income does not exceed 185 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL; $48,470 for a family of four in 2020–21), (3) students who reside in districts that have a school with at least one subgroup whose average student performance is at or below the state average for the lowest 10 percent of student performance in that subgroup or with a school with an average graduation rate of less than 60 percent and (4) siblings of current scholarship recipients. All other eligible students are eligible to receive scholarships beginning April 1 of the same year.

Student Eligibility

Students are eligible to receive scholarships if their family income does not exceed 300 percent of the federal poverty level ($78,600 for a family of four in 2020–21). Once a student has received a scholarship, families may earn up to 400 percent of the FPL ($104,800 for a family of four in 2020–21) for the duration of the scholarship or scholarship renewal while retaining eligibility.

EdChoice Expert Feedback

Illinois’ tax-credit scholarship program helps tens of thousands of low- and middle-income students access schools that are the right fit for them, but policymakers could do more to expand educational opportunity.

Eligibility for the scholarships is limited to 300 percent of the federal poverty line ($78,600 for a family of four in 2020–21). About 41 percent of Illinois students are eligible for a scholarship though only 0.3 percent of students statewide actually use a scholarship. (Additionally, Illinois families are eligible for a very modest tax credit for certain education expenses.)

The average scholarship size is about $14,250, which is only about 81 percent of the average expenditure per student at Illinois’ district schools, though the cap on scholarship values is slightly higher (the state’s operational expense per pupil, which was almost $15,000 in 2018–19, and up to twice that for students with special needs). Tax credits are worth 75 percent of the value of the contributions to scholarship organizations. Only $75 million in tax credits are available annually, which is equivalent to just 0.20 percent of Illinois’ total K–12 revenue.

In order to expand access to educational choice, Illinois policymakers should eliminate the sunset provision so the program can continue beyond 2022–23, dramatically increase the available tax credits, increase the credit value to 100 percent, and expand eligibility to all students (prioritizing scholarships based on need). The program could also be converted into an education savings account to ensure that all students have access to the education that’s the right fit for them, whether private school or a customized course of education.

The Illinois Invest in Kids tax-credit scholarship program imposes some unnecessary and counterproductive regulations. For example, the program requires scholarship students to take the state’s standardized test. Instead of mandating a single test, policymakers should allow parents and schools to choose from a variety of nationally norm-referenced tests. Additionally, disbursing credits in a manner that is “geographically proportionate to enrollment in recognized non-public schools in Illinois” does not incentivize the opening of private schools in small town and rural areas that do not already have a significant number of private school students.

Rules and Regulations

  • Income Limit: 300 percent x Poverty (400 percent to remain eligible year-to-year)
  • Prior Year Public School Requirement: No
  • Geographic Limit: Statewide
  • Enrollment Cap: None
  • Scholarship Cap: State’s average operational expense per pupil ($14,492 in 2018–19)
  • Testing Mandates: State assessments
  • Credit Value: 75 percent
  • Total Credit Cap: $1 million
  • Budget Cap: $75 million

SGO Requirements

  • Use at least 95 percent of contributions for scholarships
  • Carry forward no more than 25 percent of the qualified contributions to the next calendar year of receipt, through 2021–22; no qualifying contributions may be carried forward beginning in 2022–23
  • Award scholarships by priority group until April 1 of the year preceding the scholarship year
  • Must continue to fund a student’s scholarship if the student transfers to a different school during the academic year, with the scholarship amount prorated
  • Must provide a copy of a financial audit by an independent certified public accountant within 180 days after the end of the fiscal year to the Department of Revenue
  • Must assess and document each student’s eligibility for the academic year prior to granting a scholarship
  • Must grant scholarships only to eligible students
  • Must allow an eligible student to attend any qualified school of the student’s choosing, subject to the availability of funds
  • Must provide a report to the Department of Revenue listing the total certificates of receipt issues, total amount of qualified contributions, number of students utilizing scholarships and the name and address of each qualified school for which qualified students utilized scholarships
  • Make reasonable efforts to advertise the availability of scholarships to eligible students

Invest in Kids Program State Groups

That Support School Choice

Empower Illinois works to expand quality educational options through research, policy and advocacy initiatives.

The Illinois Department of Education approved a list of organizations that provide students private school scholarships.