Invest in Kids press conference: Real students are impacted
About 150 students and advocates Nov. 8 were in Springfield chanting and trying to persuade state lawmakers to keep the Invest in Kids school choice program. Parents, educators and politicians made the case during a press conference hosted by Illinois Policy.
At noon, Nov. 8, Illinois Policy held an Invest in Kids press conference as the Illinois General Assembly was holding its veto session in the Statehouse.
Speakers discussed the merits of the scholarships that allow low-income families to choose a private school when public schools cannot meet their children’s needs. The next few days are the final chance to save the Invest in Kids tax credit scholarship program before it expires at the end of 2023.
But state Sen. Dave Syverson vowed to keep pushing even if a bill extending Invest in Kids fails.
“So we’re gonna continue to push for this. If they do not allow a vote, we’ll start again in January. And we’ll try to get this back on track because I think it’s a program that’s clearly helped thousands of children succeed and become all that they were meant to be,” Syverson said.
Illinois Policy Vice President of Government Affairs James Long hosted the event, which coincided with a rally at the capitol. Students could be heard chanting “save my scholarship” and “call the bill” from outside the House and Senate chambers.
Transcript of the press conference
Jim Long: Well, hello and good afternoon. My name is Jim Long. I’m the Vice President of Government Affairs at Illinois Policy Institute. You can see the crowd here which I’ll be introducing in just one second. We have Senator Syverson. And Representative Joseph Sosnowski from Rockford who will also make some comments.
The reason Illinois Policy is fighting for this should you know… it’s a little silly that there’s a fight. There’s 9,600 kids now, many in this room right now, that are receiving scholarships. If there’s no action taken today and tomorrow upstairs in the capital and chamber, these scholarships and the program is going to go away. There’s been arguments on both sides. But when speaking of the funding taken away from public schools and education, it’s simply not true. Almost $2 billion had been funneled in when the program was first passed to get to the public schools and to fund them. So public schools have done well as well as the 9600 kids and the Invest in Kids program. So they both can coexist, and it’s been successfully doing so since 2018.
Many of the students, er, all of the students, the 9,600 are low-income and indeed, for whatever reason, various reasons, there’s just not a fit at their public school. The public school is not fulfilling, whether it be in their education, college prep, preparing, or different things from bullying, and other things that just don’t fit and Invest in Kids has given them an out. So that’s the most important thing that I hope the legislators upstairs are listening to and concentrating on right now.
And it’s not politics. These are human beings. They’re all here. They’ve been coming to the Capitol for two years now. And, you know, the roars that you hear up in the rotunda should be deafening to those who have to push the button. But first and foremost, we have to get Speaker Welch to call the bill. We have to start the process. The bill has got to be called. We know that the 40 Republicans in the House and the 19 in the Senate are all on board. So the Republicans have come through. They’ve signed pledges and letters and spoken out publicly for this. We know that the votes are there on the Republican side, and our roll call shows enough votes in the House to get this through. Speaker Welch, you know, may adhere to his 71 count within his caucus. That’s not a rule. That’s nothing ingrained that he has to stick to that he can go off of that. And for the benefit of the kids, he can make this happen if he so chooses. But he’s got to do it now. The clock is ticking.
You know, we see that 41% of CPS teachers in the city of Chicago send their kids to private schools. So they obviously see that there’s a need to have alternative education. If they can afford to do so, that’s great. For those, though, who may have to have a combination of scholarships and other aid and as they’re also paying a fair share of themselves. That opportunity shouldn’t be taken away from them. So that said, we have many communities here. Kingswood Academy in Darien. We have St. Agnes of Bohemia and Little Village and Christian Life in the Rockford area. Let’s just start at the top with the Kingswood Academy, folks, for a brief statement. We have Nicole and Tammy coming up first.
Tammy Kram: This scholarship program has been so important to our community here in Darien. In our school, it’s a very unique need. So our school’s classically based. It doesn’t have computers at our school. We do Greek. We do Latin. We just added Spanish. We have a large immigrant population that has come into the area. And those parents have a hard time navigating sometimes larger schools or schools that don’t fit to their needs of language. Here at our school, we make it work for a very little amount of money. But those families that are coming, they’re starting here in the U.S. We just had our first recipient of our scholarship from this year just received their green card. And those are the stories we want to hear. We have had a student that actually received the scholarship and we ended up hiring their mother and now they no longer need the scholarship and this is the stories and this is what it is. This is a program that is actually giving opportunity, not just to the students but to the whole family because we know that education is the foundation for low-income students and gives them more opportunity here in the state. One of our parents, actually Nicole, her son receives a scholarship. She’s an immigrant from Lithuania. And I know it’s meant a lot to her.
Nicole: Hi, my name is Nicole, and I write about my son scholarships. I served in Asia from the Lithuanian and I have two sons. One is that go to them public school and the other to their private that I feel is a different how it is. And I would like to share my youngest son to the year with opportunity and doing develop.
Jim Long: I mentioned St. Agnes of Bohemia. They’re here. What do you have us? What’s the school name? Do you have a Huskies or a mascot or anything you wish? The Strikers, so the Strikers are here in support. And you know they’re up there in the rotunda working hard and there’s more from the parish and from the school and again, the importance to them is very vital. And then we have Hannah Day and Stacy Moore from Christian Life if you want to step up.
Hannah Day: Hello, my name is Hannah Day. I’m the director of admissions at Christian Life Schools. And I wanted to come here today because we have been able to scholarships 63 students just this year alone with the investing Kids Act. And we have students and families that come into my office desperately looking for a different fit for their child’s education, whether it be smaller class sizes or the way they learn. They want to come to our school and we have been able to make that dream a reality for them with the Invest in Kids Act. And we just are asking for our elected officials to stand with us and make this happen so that these families can remain at the schools that fit right for their families. These are working families that we want to come alongside and be able to show them that this can be for their children. And so we just asked you to please help us and stand with us. And today I have Stacey and her son Wyatt and they received the scholarship and so she’s gonna talk.
Stacy Moore: Hi everybody. My name is Stacy Moore. My son Wyatt in kindergarten was diagnosed with ADHD and Asperger’s which made it very difficult for him to be in a large classroom. A lot of distractions, a lot of kids, each doing their own thing made it really hard. So I made it a mission on myself to try to find a way to help him get a better education. I actually have two children. One is in public school and one’s in private school, but I was awarded we have actually gotten the Invest in Kids scholarship three times in the last couple of years since the inception of it. And I just came here today to put a face to the children that are getting the scholarships and to let you know that it’s very important that our representatives do something today to make a difference. My son Wyatt went from low grades, not loving school, crying, not asking to go to school. Wanting to be homeschooled. I’m a single parent, so that wasn’t an option for me. The Invest in Kids scholarship gave me the choice to put my son into a private school at Christian Life School and a smaller school setting. He is now getting A’s and B’s and we’re talking about college. He graduates next year. So really excited. The whole Horizon has opened up for him and he wants to go to college. So all I’m asking is that the right thing be done and to help us save our scholarships.
Jim Long: Those are, you know, obviously great stories and that’s what should be highlighted. We can hear we’re in the basement of the Capitol and we can hear, you know, the other parents and students right now going around cheering and trying to get noise into the House chamber. To get the political ball moving and so on the political spectrum and the ramifications of how the legislation. Senator Syverson is here again and Representative Sosnowski. I’m gonna let them take the platform.
Sen. Dave Syverson: Thank you. First of all, thank you to the parents for coming down as I know it’s a, it’s difficult to many of you had to leave work for the day and come down at your own expense to do that. And I think that shows the passion that they have really instituted that they really want for their for their children. This is something that had bipartisan support just a few years ago, the idea of giving families low income, many minority the same opportunities that as was mentioned that the teachers union leaders get for their own children, that the legislators get for their children. We should give that same opportunity for all children in Illinois. This is a program that hasn’t taken away from the public schools. That’s been clear in the in the budgeting, we know that it’s worked. And there’s really no reason why this shouldn’t continue to help the families in Illinois. So we’re gonna continue to push for this. If they do not allow a vote, we’ll start again in January. And we’ll try to get this back on track because I think it’s a program that’s clearly helped thousands of children succeed and become all that they were meant to be. So, thank you.
Rep. Joseph Sosnowski: I can’t do too much more. But it’s an honor to be here with these families. And as was mentioned since a small sampling of the importance of this program, in almost 10,000 other students that have been able to take advantage of this program across the state. One thing that wasn’t noted is there’s 20 to 30,000 other students who are on a waiting list. Families that want to try to get into the program and so what we really should be talking about today is how do we expand this? How do we create more opportunities for more families because we know the demand is out there. And as was mentioned, you know, we have wealthy folks, elites, you know, like the governor, the speaker, heads of the teachers unions and even public school teachers themselves. For whatever reason, they decided and they looked at it for their student that it was important for them to have an alternative to the public school that they were in. And that’s fine. That’s great that they decided to do that. They have the opportunity and the financial means to do that. But why wouldn’t we give that same opportunity to families with financial need? And it’s absolutely essential that this this is what this program does, it creates those opportunities for those families who couldn’t otherwise afford it. Just yesterday, we had families down here and it was a remarkable story. There was a young lady who had, you know, essentially has worked with her own children. She had three and then she had two other family members who kind of brought their children into the house. And so five kids and she was able to have, through this scholarship program, was able to get them into a private school that served those children the best. That just can’t happen for everybody without this scholarship program. Not everybody’s got J.B. dollars and you know, that’s okay. But that’s why this program was created, to help that. So I’ve been honored to support this program from its onset, an honor to support bills that expand this and grow this and we need to get rid of the sunset. We need to save the scholarships for not just these families that are here today and these children, but we need to grow this for the other tens of thousands that want to be a part of this program. So again, like the senator said, thanks so much for being here and advocating on behalf of this. We’re proud to come alongside and support you.