Presented by Empower Illinois
Empower Illinois has a big, bold mission rooted in the simple belief that every child should have access to high quality education options. Over the years, the Empower Illinois team has devoted themselves to this mission through classroom work, policy research, and scholarship granting.
Cooperating for Success
Empower Illinois’ largest accomplishment came through cooperation, as education leaders across the state united to improve the public school funding formula and expand options for all Illinoisans. Created through the bipartisan passage of Illinois’ Invest in Kids Act in 2017, Illinois’ Tax Credit Scholarship (TCS) Program uses private dollars to fund K-12 scholarships for students from low-income and working-class families, whose education options were previously limited by household income.
Awarding Scholarships to Change Lives
With the successful passing of the Invest in Kids Act, Empower Illinois established itself as a statewide Scholarship Granting Organization (SGO) to serve Illinois’ children. As the leading SGO in the state, Empower Illinois partners with 90% of recognized private schools, supports schools in their tax credit scholarship fundraising efforts, and assists students and their families through the scholarship process that can help make their dreams a reality.
The Invest in Kids Tax Credit Scholarship Program offers Illinois taxpayers a 75% state income tax credit for gifts made through an SGO, like Empower Illinois. When making a gift through Empower Illinois, donors can select the school or schools they wish their gifts to go to, allowing them to support the specific communities they care about. Since the TCS Program began in 2018, Empower Illinois has raised $200 million to fund more than 28,000 scholarships to kids from low-income and working-class families.
Innovating for Transparency, Expediency, and Compliance
When the TCS program launched, there was no platform designed to accept donations, issue scholarship awards, and remain in compliance with the Invest in Kids Act regulations. As early demand for the program skyrocketed, the Empower Illinois team recognized the need to build a custom, transparent, and user-friendly solution: EmpowerXChange® (EXC). In August 2021, EXC’s revolutionary and novel capabilities secured a technology United States Patent, and later that year, the platform was recognized as a Top 100 Finalist for the Chicago Innovation Awards.
Advocating for Kids
In 2019 and 2021, Empower Illinois led the fight to protect education opportunities for Illinois’ kids. When opponents sought to cut and cap the TCS program, Empower Illinois supported its broad coalition in daily advocacy trips to Springfield. Thanks to their efforts, the Invest in Kids Act remains intact and scholarship opportunities have continued to empower Illinois’ kids. Most importantly in 2021, the Tax Credit Scholarship Community secured a one-year extension to the program’s sunset, giving families additional certainty for their kids’ education.
In 2022, Empower Illinois pursued legislation to improve the TCS program. The bipartisan improvements passed unanimously to create year-over-year scholarship priority and partial scholarships, provide greater education stability and increase scholarship access.
Building Brighter Futures
Today, Empower Illinois is poised to broaden their focus on education opportunity and ingenuity, always in the service of Illinois’ children and their families. The team is working hard to raise more funds and issue more scholarships than ever before, in addition to accomplishing their biggest goal to date: removing the program’s sunset to keep tax credit scholarships a permeant fixture in Illinois. To learn how you can redirect your tax liability to a school you care about visit our Donation Calculator, or to make your gift right now, visit empowerillinois.org/donate.
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