Most Invest in Kids scholarships go to families living on $49K or less for 4
The majority of families who received scholarships from the Invest in Kids program in the 2022-2023 school year earned the equivalent of just $49,025 for a family of four. Over 25% were below the poverty line.
Two-thirds of the students who received Invest in Kids scholarships in the 2022-2023 school year had a family income of less than 185% of the federal poverty level. For a family of four, that’s $49,025 or less.
And 27% had a family income below the poverty level, or less than $26,500.
The Invest in Kids scholarship program acts as a lifeline for families when money stops them from choosing private schools as the best fit for their children’s needs.
The scholarships provide low-income parents with the same autonomy over their child’s education that more financially secure parents exercise, such as Chicago Teachers Union President Stacy Davis Gates and Illinois Education Association director of government relations Sean Denney. Both chose private schools for their children, both make much more than the scholarship families and both are trying to end the scholarship program for low-income families.
Invest in Kids program provides opportunities for economically disadvantaged families
Shaka Rawls spent his life on Chicago’s South Side, attended Leo High School, taught in Chicago Public Schools and became principal of his alma mater. He knows what the right educational fit means for his 44 students from low-income families able to attend Leo thanks to Invest in Kids scholarships. He also knows what it will mean for those students if state lawmakers let the program die.
“A lot of people don’t understand the impact these scholarships have on the African-American and Latino communities,” Rawls said. “So many families don’t have the financial means to afford schools that fit their needs.”
“Public and private schools have existed side by side in Chicago for years. There are different types of schools providing different services because there are different students who need different resources. Once we understand that education needs dexterity, we will be much more successful,” he said.
A student’s opportunity to attend a school that better provides for their individual needs should not be limited by their family’s income. And the question ought not to be whether public or private schools are better. The question is whether low-income parents ought to have the same opportunity as wealthier parents to provide their child with a school that best fits their needs.
The value of the Invest in Kids scholarship is it gives low-income parents autonomy over their children’s education. Most low-income families are powerless to seek options beyond their neighborhood public schools.
For a multitude of reasons, many families have decided their local public school cannot serve their children’s needs and have sought options. The Invest in Kids program allows low-income families that same option.
“We struggled with public schools; the curriculums and most schools not having the resources that the arts can bring to children,” said Symara Moses, of Chicago. Her daughter, Cortney, attends The Chicago Academy for the Arts thanks to an Invest in Kids scholarship.
“Her being able to attend the academy has been life changing and I see her growth every single week. Something new that she’s learning, something that she’s picking up from faculty, staff, other students and just her confidence,” she said.
“If the scholarship sunsets this year, she would not be able to return to the academy,” Moses said. “We just would not be able to cover that amount of tuition and she would have to switch schools.”
CTU President Davis Gates made a similar decision for her family by enrolling her child in a private school for the extracurricular and academic opportunities that school provides. But with an annual income topping $289,000, Davis Gates can afford her choice.
For those parents whose children receive the scholarships she wants to kill – including 11 students who attend school with Davis Gates’ child on Invest in Kids scholarships—an end to the Invest in Kids program likely means they can no longer afford that same choice.
If you want to make sure low-income families have a choice about their children’s schools, contact your state lawmakers and ask where they stand on saving Invest in Kids.