4,000 low-income Chicago students on verge of losing scholarships

4,000 low-income Chicago students on verge of losing scholarships

Thousands of Chicagoans will soon have their scholarships cut off thanks to political pressure from the Chicago Teachers Union.

More than 4,000 low-income Chicagoans at 100 schools will lose their scholarships unless lawmakers extend the Invest in Kids program.

Leo High School on the South Side of Chicago has 44 students attending on Invest in Kids scholarships. Principal Shaka Rawls said the state program is essential for those who aren’t well-served by a public school education and can’t otherwise afford private school tuition.

“A lot of people don’t understand the impact these scholarships have on the African-American and Latino communities. So many families don’t have the financial means to afford schools that fit their needs,” Rawls said.

The scholarships are funded by donors who receive a tax credit on their state income taxes. While over 9,600 students received a scholarship, at least 24,000 were on a waiting list.

State lawmakers can still save the program before it expires at the end of 2023. If they don’t, families will lose the choice of where to send their kids in a city where public education is failing to meet students’ needs.

Only 20% of students in grades 3-8 in Chicago Public Schools can read at grade level, compared to 30% statewide.

But a report by the Archdiocese of Chicago schools shows 72% of their elementary students read proficiently and 51% nationwide.

Ian Holmes-White is a freshman at Leo High. He said a lot of kids will not reach their potential without Invest in Kids scholarships.

“I know that there are other schools, but Leo is the best school for me. It’s a place where I can be myself and not be judged. For the first time in my life, I feel like I enjoy school,” Ian said.

“Mom says the cost is normally $700 a month and we’re paying about $100. If the scholarship goes away, I’m afraid that my future could be in jeopardy,” he said. “My friends and my support system could disappear overnight.”

Chicago Teachers Union President Stacy Davis Gates understands the value of a private education and sends her son to an archdiocesan school so he can pursue his soccer and academic dreams. She makes over $289,000 per year, so she can afford the private school choice she is trying to deny families whose incomes average about $45,000.

CTU has pushed lawmakers to kill the program even though it’s funded through donations and state tax credits do not impact public education funding.

If someone wants to send their child to a private school, they shouldn’t be penalized because of their income when there’s a program in place that uses donations to help them pay tuition at a school that fits their child’s needs.

Contacting your state lawmakers and asking about their stance on Invest in Kids can help gain traction to extend the program and keep over 9,600 low-income students across Illinois at a school of their choice.

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