Education

How to apply for scholarships to send your kids to private school

Private school donors may get tax relief under bill

A provision in the Illinois school funding plan may provide tax credits for people who donate to private school scholarships.
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A provision in the Illinois school funding plan may provide tax credits for people who donate to private school scholarships.

Families in Southern Illinois that can’t afford tuition will soon be able to apply for new scholarships to send their children to private K-12 schools in the next academic year.

The private school scholarship program — a first for Illinois — was created by the public school funding bill that was signed into law in August. The money will be doled out based on financial need, which supporters say gives families a choice they might not otherwise have when it comes to educating their children.

For the metro-east, the organization managing scholarship money and taking applications from families is Empower Illinois. It says on its website that there are 52 private schools in St. Clair, Madison, Monroe, Clinton and Randolph counties where students could use the scholarship money.

Families can apply for the scholarships online starting Jan. 24, 2018, through empowerillinois.org. They can start that application process before their child is accepted to a private school, Empower Illinois states online.

According to the website, applying will take about 15-20 minutes. Families will need a copy of their federal tax return from 2016, proof that they live in Illinois from something like a utility bill or driver’s license, confirmation of their child’s age from a birth certificate, federal or state ID or passport, and, if available, a letter of acceptance or enrollment from the private school.

To qualify for the scholarships, a student’s family has to meet certain income guidelines.

For example, a student from a family of four with a household income last year between $45,510 and $73,800 would be eligible.

The lower the family’s income, the more money the student can receive. The largest amount most students will receive is $12,973, which is the average cost of educating a child in an Illinois public school, according to Empower Illinois.

Students who have disabilities can receive double that amount — up to $25,946. They have to be eligible to receive services under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Students whose first language isn’t English — known as English language learners — can receive up to $15,567, and students identified as gifted can receive up to $14,270.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner was at Mater Dei High School in Breese on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017 to talk about the education funding compromise approved by the Illinois Senate and House this week. He also met with students during the visit.

The potential scholarship amounts for those students are larger because they have specific learning needs.

But Empower Illinois will give priority to the students whose families have the lowest incomes, like a family of four that made $45,510, when it starts picking scholarship winners. And those students’ scholarship amounts would be either the full tuition and fees of the private school or $12,973 — whichever is less.

For the family of four that made $73,800, the student’s scholarship amount would be half the cost of the tuition and fees of the private school.

Children who live in a school district with low test scores for certain groups of students or with graduation rates below 60 percent will also be given priority when Empower Illinois picks from applicants. In the five-county area, there are seven districts that fall into those categories, according to the Illinois State Board of Education, including:

▪  Alton District 11 in Madison County

▪  Cahokia District 187 in St. Clair County

▪  Coulterville District 1 in Randolph County

▪  East St. Louis District 189 in St. Clair County

▪  Granite City District 9 in Madison County

▪  Roxana District 1 in Madison County

▪  Sparta District 140 in Randolph County

Families will be notified if their child will receive a scholarship beginning in February. Empower Illinois will send the money directly to the private school where a scholarship winner is enrolled.

The private schools accepting students who receive scholarships will be responsible for a new cost; they will pay to administer a state assessment to measure scholarship winners’ performance in the 2019-20 school year.

Students who receive scholarships for the 2018-19 school year will have to reapply every year. They’ll get priority when scholarships are given out in future school years.

The scholarships are financed by private money. To encourage participation, the state offered $75 million in tax credits to the program’s donors. Each donor can get a 75 percent credit on a donation — $7,500 for a $10,000 contribution, for example.

Lexi Cortes: 618-239-2528, @lexicortes

Eligibility guidelines

The following are the income guidelines that a family needs to meet for their child to be eligible for a private school scholarship in Illinois:

Family members

Earning this amount makes students eligible for full tuition or $12,973 and priority in receiving scholarships.

Earning this amount makes students eligible for 75% of tuition or $12,973.

Earning this amount makes students eligible for 50% of tuition or $12,973.

1

Less than $22,311

Between $22,311-$30,150

Between $30,150-$36,180

2

Less than $30,044

Between $30,044-$40,600

Between $40,600-$48,720

3

Less than $37,777

Between $37,777-$51,050

Between $51,050-$61,260

4

Less than $45,510

Between $45,510-$61,500

Between $61,500-$73,800

5

Less than $53,243

Between $53,243-$71,950

Between $71,950-$86,340

6

Less than $60,976

Between $60,976-$82,400

Between $82,400-$98,880

7

Less than $68,709

Between $68,709-$92,850

Between $92,850-$111,420

8

Less than $76,442

Between $76,442-$103,300

Between $103,300-$123,960

The schools

According to Empower Illinois, the following are the local private schools that the students can receive scholarships to attend:

County

School

City

Clinton

All Saints Academy

Breese

Clinton

Christ Our Rock Lutheran High School

Centralia

Clinton

Mater Dei High School

Breese

Clinton

Trinity Lutheran School

Hoffman

Madison

Father McGivney High School

Maryville

Madison

Good Shepherd Lutheran

Collinsville

Madison

Holy Cross Lutheran School

Collinsville

Madison

Holy Family Catholic School

Granite City

Madison

Marquette Catholic High School

Alton

Madison

Maryville Christian School

Maryville

Madison

Metro-East Lutheran High School

Edwardsville

Madison

Our Lady Queen of Peace

Bethalto

Madison

SS Peter and Paul School

Collinsville

Madison

St. Ambrose School

Godfrey

Madison

St. Boniface

Edwardsville

Madison

St. Elizabeth School

Granite City

Madison

St. John Neumann

Maryville

Madison

St. Mary

Alton

Madison

St. Mary’s School

Edwardsville

Madison

St. Paul Catholic School

Highland

Madison

St. Paul Lutheran

Troy

Madison

St. Peter and Paul School

Alton

Madison

Trinity Lutheran

Edwardsville

Madison

Zion Lutheran School

Bethalto

Monroe

Gibault High School

Waterloo

Monroe

Immaculate Conception

Columbia

Monroe

St. Peter and Paul School

Waterloo

Randolph

Christ Our Savior Lutheran High School

Evansville

Randolph

St. John Lutheran School

Chester

Randolph

St. John the Baptist

Red Bud

Randolph

St. John’s Lutheran School

Red Bud

Randolph

St. Mark’s Lutheran School

Steeleville

Randolph

St. Mary School

Chester

Randolph

Trinity Lutheran School

Red Bud

St. Clair

Althoff Catholic High School

Belleville

St. Clair

Blessed Sacrament

Belleville

St. Clair

First Baptist Academy

O’Fallon

St. Clair

Governor French Academy

Belleville

St. Clair

Holy Childhood School

Mascoutah

St. Clair

Holy Trinity Catholic School

Fairview Heights

St. Clair

Notre Dame Academy

Belleville

St. Clair

Our Lady Queen of Peace

Belleville

St. Clair

Sister Thea Bowman Catholic School

East St. Louis

St. Clair

St. Agatha School

New Athens

St. Clair

St. Clare Catholic School

O’Fallon

St. Clair

St. James Catholic School

Millstadt

St. Clair

St. John the Baptist Catholic

Smithton

St. Clair

St. Joseph School

Freeburg

St. Clair

St. Teresa

Belleville

St. Clair

Unity Lutheran Christian School

East St. Louis

St. Clair

Vincent Gray Academy

East St. Louis

St. Clair

Zion Lutheran Belleville

Belleville

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