Students filling Statehouse to save Illinois’ school choice program

Students filling Statehouse to save Illinois’ school choice program

The Illinois General Assembly was greeted back to Springfield by private school students pushing them to save the state scholarship program for low-income students. Thousands more are expected Oct. 25.

Private school students from across Illinois started arriving Oct. 24 in Springfield to tell state lawmakers how important it is to renew the Invest in Kids scholarship program for low-income families.

“If this goes away, we would lose some of our students, who are really our family members. A lot of our students can’t afford that,” said Tammi Karam, director of operations at Kingswood Academy in Darien, a southwest Chicago suburb. She said 1 in 5 of Kingswood’s students rely on the scholarships.

She said Kingswood is an important option for diversity in the community. The two public high schools have struggled with longstanding income and funding disparities. She said the private school provides a way for students of all income levels to receive a high-quality education.

“It’s important in our school that we have students of all different socioeconomic backgrounds. That’s the fabric that Kingswood is really made up of,” Karam said. “Save our scholarships. We need to have these options for low-income students.”

Nearly 10,000 low-income students depend on Invest in Kids scholarships right now, and many times more are on lists awaiting a scholarship. Minority students receive more than half of the scholarships issued by the group providing most of the grants.

Invest in Kids also has widespread support among Illinois voters. A poll in June found Illinois voters support it by a 3 to 1 margin. Another poll by a firm popular with Democrats found Black voters support it 5 to 1, as do 74% of Hispanic voters.

State lawmakers will meet again Wednesday, when thousands of students are expected in the Statehouse. They canceled their  Thursday session. Then they take a week off and are scheduled to return for three days, Nov. 7-9.

The opposition to Invest in Kids comes mainly from teachers unions, whose bosses see the private schools as competition that dilutes their power. Union bosses tend to be heard by state lawmakers, with over 4 of every 5 lawmakers in Illinois getting money from teachers unions.

Follow the students in Springfield and developments about Invest in Kids on or on X, Instagram and TikTok.

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