Illinois undermines educational freedom with a budget that zeroes out the state’s scholarship tax credit program.
By Eileen Griffin
The state of Illinois ended the “Invest in Kids” scholarship tax credit program as part of the 2024 budget.
Democrats passed the bill without any votes from state Republicans, WGN 9 reports. Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) signed the budget into law, stating “You’ve seen we’ve put forward significant dollars to support education in every way possible.”
The bill provided an additional $350 million for K-12 and provides money to state colleges and universities.
A new program launched by Pritzker is also funded in the budget. Pritzker’s “Smart Start” provides child care for pre-school children. It also funds home visits and family intervention services.
“Birth through 5 [year-old] services and kindergarten readiness is the foundation for the rest of our children’s educational experiences,” Pritzker said.
The budget provides additional money for government schools and intervention programs, but eliminates financial support for families choosing to exit the public school system.
Zeroes Out Tax Credits
Under Gov. Bruce Rauner, the state passed the Invest in Kids tax credit program with support from both Republicans and Democrats in 2017.
The program offers a 75 percent tax credit to individuals and businesses who support scholarship programs.
Both individuals and companies can participate by donating to Scholarship Granting Organizations (SGOs), who then provide scholarships to families who qualify based on income. The scholarships allow children to attend “qualified non-public schools or technical academies in Illinois.”
Illinois Senate Republican Leader John Curran criticized the move to eliminate the tax credit.
“The program helps about 10,000 disadvantaged kids throughout the state,” Curran said. “It was just an unwillingness on the part of Democrats to extend the program in the face of opposition, mainly from teacher unions.”
Educational freedom efforts, such as Invest in Kids, have allowed families who would not otherwise be able to afford private, faith-based, or alternative schools to access the education that best suits their child.
“Their failure to renew the state’s popular tax credit scholarship program, which could have been a lifeline for struggling families and a catalyst for educational empowerment, is nothing short of regressive,” wrote Jacob Lane for Newsmax.
Escape Hatch from Failing Schools
Illinois has a track record of failure in government-run schools Newsmax reports. Low student performance is well documented and available through the Illinois State Board of Education.
In 2022 there were 55 schools where not one student was determined to be proficient in math or reading. In 930 state-run schools only 1 out of 10 students can perform grade level math. In 622 schools only 1 in 10 students can read at grade level.
Low performing schools are not confined to the city of Chicago, Illinois Policy reports. More than half of the state’s low performing schools are outside of the city.
The entire state may suffer from students lacking skills sufficient to succeed in the workforce. Those students are likely to land in the welfare system or prison.
For thousands of students in the state, the Invest in Kids program offered a lifeline out of a failed school system and a bleak educational outcome.
“For thousands of Illinois’ kids, the Invest in Kids Act has emerged as a beacon of hope,” Lane wrote. “By enabling students to attend high-performing schools that were previously out of reach, this legislation has not only transformed their present circumstances but made the idea of attending college a reality instead of a distant dream.”
Pritzker lists increased funding of K-12 education and early childhood intervention as one of his accomplishments on the governor’s official website. Without the tax credit program, many children from disadvantaged backgrounds will lose the ability to choose a school other than the government-run failed system.
“With such a reckless action, Illinois became an overnight pioneer in undermining educational freedom, crushing the prospects of thousands of students who would otherwise be stuck in failing schools,” Lane wrote.
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