CHICAGO – Teachers unions celebrated this week when state lawmakers allowed the “Invest in Kids” scholarship program to expire.
However, supporters of student choice are fighting mad.
One day after lawmakers in Springfield passed on a vote extending the controversial “Invest in Kids” scholarship program, supporters rallied at Chicago Hope Academy on behalf of the more than 9,000 students set to lose their financial aid at the end of the school year and for the private schools that could close as a result.
“When a school closes, it’s not just the kids on scholarships, it’s every one of their classmates who can’t go to that school, it’s the anchor in the community that is gone,” said Anthony Holter of Empower Illinois.
Launched by former Gov. Bruce Rauner, the $75 million privately funded tax credit program is responsible for 40,000 scholarships for low-income families over five years.
“Private school shouldn’t just be for wealthy kids, private school shouldn’t be restricted to white and Asian students, but they typically are and so we’re determined to continue to provide opportunities for first-generation college students, students of color and students who don’t come from wealthy families to have a private school experience,” said Ike Muzikowski, principal at Chicago Hope Academy.
It has proven to be a political lightning rod in Springfield, with strong opposition from teachers’ unions, Democrats and even Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who campaigned against it before winning office in 2018
“After all of the promises throughout this calendar year of our state government calendar, and our House Speaker did not even call for a vote to let the chips fall where they may!” said Fr. Brendan Curran of the Resurrection Project.
The program officially ends Dec. 31 but could be resurrected next year. However, with Democrats in control in Springfield, a floor vote isn’t likely.