Teachers union lobbyists push to end scholarships for low-income students

Teachers union lobbyists push to end scholarships for low-income students

Illinois Families for Public Schools released a statement denouncing tax-credit scholarships in Illinois. Invest in Kids grants low-income students a scholarship to attend a private school of their choice.

A coalition is lobbying Springfield to end tax-credit scholarships for low-income students, a move to eliminate about the only option for students who don’t thrive in public schools.

Illinois Families for Public Schools is urging lawmakers to end the Invest in Kids Tax Credit Scholarship Program. The press release mentioned mayoral candidates Paul Vallas and Brandon Johnson because of their drastically opposing views on school choice. 

Vallas supports programs such as Invest in Kids and would expand educational opportunities if elected. His view aligns with nearly two-thirds of Chicago voters recently polled.

Johnson is a lobbyist for the Chicago Teachers Union, which has called for letting Invest in Kids expire at the end of 2023. Illinois Families for Public Schools is closely aligned with CTU.

The Invest in Kids Act allows low-income students to attend a school of their choice that better fits their needs, sometimes with more attention and smaller class sizes. Scholarships are funded by donors who then receive an income tax credit equal to 75% of their donation. 

The Invest in Kids Tax Credit Scholarship program has awarded more than 37,000 grants to low-income families worth $280 million since it started in 2018.

Groups trying to end Invest in Kids, such as the Illinois Federation of Teachers, claim it takes away funding from public schools.

But the scholarships actually help public schools by reducing overcrowding as parents continue paying property taxes. Each scholarship student saved government up to $3,000 by removing the need to educate a student for whom tax revenue was still being provided, according to a study that looked at the 2013-2014 school year.

Invest in Kids takes up $75 million in the state budget, or 0.77% of the $9.7 billion budget projection for primary education in 2023. The program is a sliver of state education dollars but is life-changing for families. 

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said in a Chicago-Sun Times candidate questionnaire he now supports Invest in Kids. 

“With assurance from the advocates for Invest in Kids that they will support increased public school funding, my budgets have ultimately included the relatively small Invest in Kids Scholarship Program,” Pritzker said.Pritzker said he won’t endorse a candidate in the April 4 Chicago mayor runoff election. A recent poll shows a tight race between the two with 44.9% of those surveyed saying they will vote for Vallas and 39.1% saying they would vote for Johnson, with 16% undecided.

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