Applications open Tuesday for state tax credit scholarships

Suburban parents seeking to send their children to private schools this fall can apply for scholarships through Empower Illinois starting Tuesday.

This is the second year of disbursements from the state's tax credit scholarship program - part of Illinois' Invest in Kids Act adopted last summer.

For every dollar in charitable donations to specific scholarship granting organizations, or SGOs, the state offers a 75-cent tax credit.

This school year, roughly $45 million of a total $57 million collected for scholarships was awarded through Empower Illinois - the largest of five SGOs including Big Shoulders Fund, Illinois Children's Tuition Fund, HighSight and Children at the Crossroads Foundation.

Empower Illinois awarded about 5,500 scholarships and had more than 30,000 students on a waitlist, Executive Director Anthony Holter said.

A majority of the scholarships went to students attending Jewish day schools, Montessori schools and Catholic schools, Holter said.

Scholarships must be used for private or independent schools. Students attending charter schools aren't eligible since they are publicly funded schools.

Families that received the scholarship this year have to reapply and get in line for next year, Holter said.

Empower Illinois' application process for 2019-20 scholarships begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Families must reserve their place in line by submitting a brief form. On Friday, those in queue will receive a link to complete part two of the application through Empower Illinois' online portal.

Scholarships are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Priority is given to families whose household income is 185 percent below the federal poverty level - roughly $46,000 for a family of four - and up to 300 percent higher than poverty level - $75,000 for a family of four.

In most cases, state law allows for a maximum scholarship of $13,300 per student. But students who are on individualized education programs, who are English language learners or who are gifted can qualify for up to twice as much. Families approved for scholarships will be notified starting Feb. 1, Holter said.

For information, visit, call (309) 416-0741 between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. Tuesday or email

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