Updated April 26, 2018, 3:49 p.m.
UPDATE: ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - An Illinois tax credit scholarship program launched earlier this year has been so successful in the Rockford area that many kids are forced to be waitlisted.
Illinois's Invest in Kids Scholarship Tax Credit Program is for low and middle-income students and was launched earlier this year. It began after parents expressed they wanted to enroll their child in private school but couldn't afford tuition.
Under the new program, a donor writes a check to a scholarship granting organization and they receive a tax credit from the state. So many local families are interested in the program that many are forced to wait.
"If no money has been indicated for that particular school or if they've already expended all their funds, people are given a waitlist. That's where we really are right now. The overwhelming majority of kids are on a waitlist looking for donors to step up and give them an educational choice," said Rockford Lutheran Executive Director Don Gillingham.
Gillingham says the program wants to raise $23 million for area students. The donation pool sits at $6 million right now. The more money that comes in, the more students can be taken off the waitlist.
Updated February 19, 2018, 7:04 p.m.
UPDATE: ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - After the server crashed during the Jan. 31 launch, Empower Illinois is relaunching its application website for the Invest In Kids Scholarship Tax Credit Program.
Empower Illinois says about 30,000 applicants accessed the website all at once during the first minute of the launch. The organization has since created a technology committee with individuals from Lutheran, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim and universal schools.
The new process gives applicants three days to complete the application with the ability to save and come back to it the next day.
"And what we did is we worked together to be able to establish an application, a process that would work and hopefully better for everybody that's involved. And really just make again that opportunity to invest in the kids of our state and make sure that those kids have an opportunity for a better education," said GRALS Director Scott Dabson.
Dabson says the schools will help provide resources to anyone who wishes to submit the application but doesn't have access to a computer.
The application opens at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb 27.
Updated February 1, 2018, 12:53 p.m.
UPDATE: ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Following technical difficulties during the application process for the tax credit scholarship program, Empower Illinois says they will relaunch the application.
There is no set date for the relaunch. Empower Illinois released the following statement:
"Yesterday, demand by Illinois families for the tax credit scholarship program exceeded every imaginable expectation. Our student application was suspended after nearly 30,000 applicants flooded the system, which caused severe, unexpected technical problems and made the process virtually inoperable.
We apologize to the parents, grandparents, guardians and foster families who attended events, or otherwise made accommodations to try to apply for the scholarship. We understand the inconvenience and frustration these technical problems caused for many of you, and we are committed to fixing them. Fairness to every student and every school across the state demands significant action, which is why we have decided to delay the relaunch of the scholarship application. The application will not relaunch this week. We do not yet have a date for when the application will be available but we will provide you with ample notice.
Numerous technology upgrades and contingency systems are in development. The glitches seen yesterday, such as schools not listed, were all related. We are committed to ensuring this doesn’t happen again. We will not risk the viability of scholarships or the integrity of the program for a quick solution.
Likewise, we will not forfeit our ability to grant scholarships by failing to meet the state-imposed deadline of Feb 1. Empower Illinois will award one scholarship today from the small pool of students able to complete the application. We are still in the process of reviewing the others to understand how many are qualified or viable candidates. Processing one award will make the program viable for tens of thousands of other qualified students, while maintaining the first-come, first-served requirement.
If nothing more, what happened yesterday could not more clearly illustrate the demand for this program. Demand by students and families, in every corner of Illinois, for quality educational options. These were more than 30,000 people strong who said loud and clear: Invest in Kids.
We recognize many questions remain and we are working diligently to identify solutions. We will continue to communicate with you. Thank you for your understanding and patience."
Posted January 26, 2018, 9:56 p.m.
ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - The Invest In Kids Scholarship Tax Credit Program aims to help more students get into private schools and the time to sign up is coming soon.
Parents can start registering online with Empower Illinois starting at noon on Jan. 31. The scholarships applications are accepted on a first come first serve basis upon proof of income.
Local school officials are providing resources to aid those who might need help.
"We've got a network of 17 schools that will be open so that families can go in and get help if they need that. Scanning documents or working through the application process, which is all done online and can be done on your phone as well," said Don Gillingham, Executive Director at Rockford Lutheran School.
Gillingham advises parents to sign up as soon as possible. For more information check out the related links.