Sneaky tax credit scholarship
School choice advocates are cheering a tax credit scholarship program approved by Illinois lawmakers last week. The program authorizes up to $75 million in tax credits to businesses or individuals that donate funds to poor students for private schooling. Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner is a longtime advocate for school choice, but the tax credit program surprised state educators pushing for school finance reform legislation. Lawmakers negotiated the bill behind closed doors and called the tax credit program a vital part of reaching a compromise on the education spending overhaul. Opponents cried foul, noting they didn’t learn about the tax credit program until hours before lawmakers approved it. Illinois joins a group of about 20 states that have a tax credit scholarship program, but opponents have vowed to kill it before it gains traction. Rauner is up for reelection in 2018, and his Democratic opponents promise to make repealing the program a big part of their platform. —L.J.
Is this the high school?
The Colorado Department of Education will spend $9.2 million this year on extra nurses, counselors, and social workers to combat marijuana use among students. The grants, spread among 42 public and charter schools, are funded through taxes on pot sales, which are now legal for Coloradans 21 and older. Legalizing marijuana has created a more casual attitude toward the drug, experts say. About 5 percent of Colorado high schoolers smoke marijuana regularly, a figure that’s held steady since 2005, according to state public health officials. Although legal marijuana hasn’t led to dramatic increases in use by minors, schools are bracing for that potential. “We just want to make sure kids make smarter choices,” said Ellen Kelty, interim director of student equity and opportunity for Denver Public Schools. —L.J.