Illinois lawmakers in August approved and the governor signed into law a revolutionary education funding formula that also includes a new Tax Credit Scholarship program giving low-income and working-class students the opportunity to attend a Catholic or other private school.
A statewide scholarship-granting organization called Empower Illinois has been formed, and will be ready to take scholarship applications from students by Jan. 1 for the 2018-2019 school year.
During this season of thanksgiving and gratitude, let's take a moment to thank the lawmakers who made school choice a reality in Illinois. We at the Catholic Conference took out "thank-you" ads in diocesan newspapers and magazines across Illinois.
You can join in the thanks.
Click this link to send a thank-you message via email or a phone call to your lawmakers who voted yes. Follow the prompts and enter the asked-for information. The system will automatically determine if your lawmakers voted for the Tax Credit Scholarship with the information you enter, and will lead you to a pre-composed email or phone script that you can edit to your personal taste. For security reasons, you may be asked to provide a verification code, which will be emailed to you.
HOWEVER, if you are the type of person who likes to go through a process that explains every step, follow these instructions to find out who your lawmakers are, if they voted "yes" for the Tax Credit Scholarship, and then send them an email or hard-copy letter.
1.) Click here to find out who your lawmakers are. You will first be asked to provide your zip code, and then click "Continue." The next screen will show the city in which you live, and will ask for your specific street address. (This is because the boundaries of legislative districts are drawn so precisely that they often split streets into different districts.) A list of your federal and state elected officials will appear. Keep this screen up.
2.) Click here to find an alphabetized list of House and Senate lawmakers and how they voted for the Tax Credit Scholarship. This document will open up in a separate screen. Find your state representative and state senator on the list to see how they voted.
3.) Send an email or hard copy letter to your lawmakers who voted "yes."
TO SEND AN EMAIL:
Return to the first screen listing your elected officials — you left it up — and place a check before the names of your lawmakers who voted "yes." Then click "Compose Message." The next screen will list your lawmakers who voted "yes," as well as two blanks for you to fill in with the subject of your email and the body of your email.
Suggested subject of email:
Thank you for supporting the Tax Credit Scholarship program
Suggested body of email:
Access to a quality education is one of the greatest social justice issues of our time, and is much too important to be determined solely by where a student lives. As Pope Francis notes in The Joy of Love, "… the overall education of children is a 'most serious duty' and at the same time a 'primary right' of parents."
As a Catholic school parent, I greatly appreciate the bipartisan compromise that created the Tax Credit Scholarship program, which gives students and their parents the opportunity to choose their education and future.
My family and I are grateful for your support.
(NOTE: The email software automatically fills in the salutation (Dear Representative or Dear Senator) and the closing (Sincerely) when the email is sent.)
Enter your email and zip code as prompted, and click on "Continue."
On the next screen, fill in your information, uncheck any boxes you are not interested in, and click on "Send Message." A screen will appear stating that you have received an email with a 4-digit verification code. (This is to safeguard that it is actually you sending the email.) Copy and paste that code into the indicated box, and then click "OK." Your message has been submitted.
TO SEND A HARD-COPY LETTER THROUGH THE U.S. POSTAL SERVICE:
Return to the first screen listing your elected officials — you left it up — and click on the names of your lawmakers who voted "yes." You will be taken to a screen listing that lawmaker's contact information. Write a letter to the lawmaker — you can use the above suggested email message — and mail the letter to the lawmaker's district office.
TO CALL, EMAIL, OR SEND A HARD-COPY LETTER TO THE FOUR LEGISLATIVE LEADERS AND THE GOVERNOR:
House Speaker Michael Madigan
6500 South Pulaski Road
Chicago, IL 60629
House Minority Leader Jim Durkin
16W281 83rd Street, Suite C
Burr Ridge, IL 60527
Senate President John Cullerton
1726 W. Belmont
Chicago, IL 60657
Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady
2203 Eastland Drive, Suite 3
Bloomington, IL 61704
Governor Bruce Rauner
100 W. Randolph, 16-100
Chicago, IL 60601
Email form on governor's website: https://www.illinois.gov/gov/contactus/Pages/default.aspx