Teachers unions hand nearly $1.5 million to lawmakers ahead of Invest in Kids vote

Mailee Smith

Senior Director of Labor Policy and Staff Attorney

Mailee Smith
November 6, 2023

Teachers unions hand nearly $1.5 million to lawmakers ahead of Invest in Kids vote

Illinois teachers unions want to end scholarships for low-income kids. They've funneled more than $21.5 million to current lawmakers who hold the decision in their hands, with nearly $1.5 million coming just since June 1. Will lawmakers stand with unions, or kids?

The majority of Illinois voters approve of Illinois’ tax credit scholarship program for low-income elementary and high school students, but not the teachers unions putting significant dollars behind their attack on the program.

They’ve invested over $21.5 million in sitting state lawmakers since 2010, with nearly $1.5 million of that since June, Illinois State Board of Elections records show. Teachers unions are working to kill the low-income scholarships for good.

The Invest in Kids tax credit scholarship program allows a tax credit for donor-provided scholarships to low-income families so their children can attend the schools that best fit their needs. It will expire at the end of the year unless lawmakers by the Nov. 9 end of veto session enact a bill that extends it.

George Kokuro is a high school freshman on the wait list for a scholarship through Empower Illinois, one of the scholarship granting organizations.

“I want lawmakers to know that some people out here don’t have enough money to better themselves, so they depend on people like Empower Illinois,” George said. “I feel like the scholarship should be kept so people can do better for themselves, do better in the future and hopefully succeed in life.”

Will lawmakers side with the powerful special interest funding their political careers, or will they do what’s best for kids and preferred by the majority of Illinoisans?

Teachers unions have poured nearly $1.5 million into lawmakers’ coffers in past five months

Teachers unions have funneled at least $1,479,150 into current lawmakers’ political committees since June 1, according to records with the Illinois State Board of Elections.

That includes $834,050 since Sept. 1, with more than $224,600 in the past month alone.

Most of that has come from the National Education Association, which has contributed $1.1 million since June 1. The Chicago Teachers Union, which has come under fire for its use of member dues for political purposes, has contributed at least $40,500 to lawmakers since June 1.

In all, current lawmakers have received more than $21.5 million from teachers unions since Jan. 1, 2010.

Those same unions want lawmakers to kill the Invest in Kids program. The Illinois Education Association – the state affiliate of the National Education Association – earlier celebrated the seeming demise of the program when the spring legislative session ended and it had not been extended. The Chicago Teachers Union wants it to end “for good.” The Illinois Federation of Teachers has called on their followers to “keep the pressure on lawmakers to sunset” the program.

The majority of Illinoisans support the Invest in Kids tax credit scholarship program

Most Illinoisans support the Invest in Kids program. A June poll conducted by Echelon Insights on behalf of the Illinois Policy Institute found voters support the program 3 to 1. The program has at least 60% support from each main political ideology, with independents most in favor at 67%.

Another poll found 71% of Black voters and 81% of Hispanic voters backed it.

More recently, a poll by a research firm popular among Democrats shows all voters, but especially minority and low-income voters, strongly support Illinois’ Invest in Kids program to provide private school scholarships to disadvantaged students.

The poll surveyed 600 Illinois voters and found:

  • Black voters supported the program by nearly 5-1.
  • 74% of Latino voters were in favor of the program.
  • Low-income voters were 4-1 in favor.
  • Parents supported the program by 58% to 22% opposed.

Lawmakers have one more chance to save the program during their veto session Nov. 7-9. Contact your state lawmaker and ask where they stand on the Invest in Kids Act.

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