Students at Illinois capitol to demand last-minute scholarship rescue
Hundreds of students and school choice advocates were at the Illinois House chambers to let state representatives know they expect them to save the Invest in Kids Act for low-income students.
More than 300 students and adults in blue-and-yellow T-shirts on Oct. 25 stood outside the Illinois House, imploring state lawmakers to rescue the Invest in Kids Act before Illinois’ school choice program expires at the end of 2023.
Advocates chanted “Save our scholarships” and “It’s about the kids, not about the politics.” As of early afternoon, the most relevant chant was “Call the bill.”
Democratic caucus members said it is unlikely Speaker of the House Emanuel “Chris” Welch will call a bill to a vote unless a majority of members are already committed to voting “yes.”
The current version of the bill, House Bill 4194, was filed by state Rep. Angelica Guerrero-Cuellar, D-Chicago, and co-sponsored by three other Democrats. It would extend the program through the end of 2028 but also lower income tax credits to $50 million from $75 million.
Nearly 10,000 students – mostly minorities and all low-income – depend on the scholarships to attend their school of choice. The program is in high demand and has widespread approval from Illinoisans, especially minorities.
Families with scholarships or on the wait list cite a range of reasons their school choice is important. Some are escaping underperforming public schools, or bullying or are just looking for greater academic and extracurricular offerings.
Legislators have canceled Thursday’s session. Lawmakers only have the rest of Wednesday and Nov. 7-9 to push the measure through the House and Senate. If they fail to do so, thousands of low-income Illinoisans will be forced to pull their children out of their current schools.