Lawmakers consider renewing Invest in Kids scholarships

Lawmakers consider renewing Invest in Kids scholarships

A new bill would revive a scholarship program that was stripped from 9,600 low-income Illinois students, ending their best chances to attend schools of their choice.

A new bill in Springfield would resurrect scholarships for thousands of low-income students in Illinois.

House Bill 4691, filed by state Rep. Tim Ozinga, R-Mokena, would restart the Invest in Kids Act through 2035. Before lawmakers refused to extend the program in 2023, it helped 9,600 low-income kids throughout the state.

Invest in Kids granted tax credits to donors who funded scholarships for kids to attend a school of their choice.

Special interests, such as the Chicago Teachers Union, successfully lobbied lawmakers to let the program expire. Invest in Kids funded $5,900 per scholarship recipient on average, much less than the $18,000 Illinois public schools spend per pupil.

So far four private schools will be forced to close at the end of the school year because so many of their students relied on Invest in Kids scholarships.

When the school year ends, parents such as Christine Clark of Cicero will have to send their kids to a different school. She didn’t see it coming.

“I read the email at work at 3:30,” Clark said. “I was in tears. My daughter was ballistic. She was crying her heart out.”

Other schools are trying last-ditch efforts to stay open. St. Bede in Ingleside started a GoFundMe to help raise money. They already surpassed their goal of $400,000 raised by Jan. 26, but they will need the same generosity next year to stay open.

Reviving Invest in Kids would have public support: 63% of Illinoisans supported the program, according to an Illinois Policy Institute poll.

HB 4691 has been referred to the Rules Committee, where the next step would be a hearing. The only co-sponsor to sign on to the bill so far is state Rep. Dan Ugaste, R-Geneva.

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