Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Public school advocates celebrate end of controversial Invest in Kids scholarship program

While+some+have+applauded+Invest+in+Kids+for+giving+students+more+flexibility+in+school+choice%2C+many+Evanston-area+lawmakers+have+criticized+the+tax+credit+program+for+diverting+funding+from+the+state%E2%80%99s+coffers.
Illustration by Esther Lian
While some have applauded Invest in Kids for giving students more flexibility in school choice, many Evanston-area lawmakers have criticized the tax credit program for diverting funding from the state’s coffers.

The Illinois General Assembly did not extend the Invest in Kids Scholarship Tax Credit Program at its Nov. 9 fall veto session. The program, which provides indirect state support for qualifying students attending non-public schools, will end as scheduled on Dec. 31.

Passed in 2017, the Invest in Kids Act offers individuals and businesses which contribute to state-approved Scholarship Granting Organizations (SGOs) a 75% income tax credit. To be eligible, students must come from a household with an income below 300% of the federal poverty level.

While some have applauded Invest in Kids for giving students more flexibility in school choice, many Evanston-area lawmakers have criticized the tax credit program for diverting funding from the state’s coffers — funding which could otherwise go toward the public education system.

Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery released a statement Nov. 9 commending the termination of what he called a “voucher-like” program.

“Today, Illinois lawmakers chose to put our public schools first and end the state program that subsidized private, mostly religious schools, many of which have discriminatory policies,” he said.

The Department of Revenue’s report for the 2022-2023 year showed over 45% of students who received scholarships were white, with a significant number of schools reporting only white students utilized the program or not reporting the racial breakdown of enrolled students at all.

While State Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) declined to comment, her team’s email newsletter, sent on Nov. 12, claimed the report cut into what support existed for Invest in Kids.

“These programs are little more than an elaborate tax dodge for wealthy donors for whom the regular tax deduction for charitable gifts wasn’t sufficient,” the newsletter read.

Alex Moore, the communications director for U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowksy (D-Ill.), said Schakowsky led the Illinois Congressional Delegation in a Nov. 6 joint statement urging state lawmakers to oppose extensions to the Invest in Kids program.

The statement claimed the tax credits “perpetuate and deepen the education inequities that plague Illinois” by indirectly supporting non-public schools, which may discriminate against students “on the basis of disability status, gender identity, sexual orientation, if they are pregnant or parenting, or immigration status.”

“(Schakowsky) is a longtime champion of public education,” Moore said. “She was an elementary school teacher and knows the importance of public education.”

However, the end of the act could jeopardize educational plans for thousands of students. A Nov. 10 press release from the Save My Scholarship Coalition said over 9,500 students statewide could lose their scholarships, causing them to leave their “best-fit schools.”

Anthony Holter, president of Empower Illinois — an SGO that received over $50 million in contributions through Invest in Kids — said in the release that he questioned why a compromise bill with bipartisan support was not called for a vote. He added the SGO will continue working for quality education for students across the state, despite a potential drop in funds. 

“It is a terribly sad day in Illinois because of the legislature’s failure to address and extend the Invest in Kids Act Tax Credit Scholarship Program,” Holter said. “The legislature’s inaction on such a critical issue has created very real and tragic consequences for thousands of kids, families and entire school communities.”

Still, many advocates maintain that the program didn’t offer equal opportunities to different racial demographics. In a Nov. 9 statement, Al Llorens, president of the Illinois Education Association, said the group was grateful the program ended, as funds went primarily to white students.

The voucher system was intentionally created with a lack of oversight and accountability, leaving us with no data to measure its effectiveness,” Llorens said. “Public money belongs in public schools and we are glad our lawmakers believe that, too.”

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @jillian_moore7

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