Families push to extend Illinois’ school choice program at start of veto session



(The Center Square) – As members of each party lay out their priorities with the start of fall veto session at the Illinois statehouse, scores of school kids benefiting from the soon-to-expire Invest in Kids school choice scholarship program were on the scene.

But to start the session, House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, advanced a measure out of committee to allow statehouse staffers to unionize.

“The way this bill is written, there will be no bargaining over calendars and schedules and how the legislature will operate,” Welch told the committee. “And we have a no strike provision.”

Welch’s bill was the only measure advanced Tuesday by the House. It would need to pass the House floor and the Senate before becoming law and only impacts certain legislative staff members.

State Rep. Ryan Spain, R-Peoria, criticized the measure taking precedence during the veto session as it only impacts a small number of state employees. He said that is misguided when the sunset of the Invest in Kids school choice scholarship program approaches Dec. 31.

“We have kicked the can and kicked the can and now it is time for action for the legislature. I certainly hope to step up and save this program,” Spain said during a news conference about the GOP’s agenda for veto session.

The program that began five years ago allows private donations to a fund to be used to give low-income families grants to send their children to a school of their choice. Those who donate get a 75% Illinois income tax credit. The program has already benefited thousands of families across the state.

At an unrelated event in Chicago Tuesday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker was asked about whether to extend the Invest in Kids school choice scholarship program. Pritzker said he’s focused on public school funding, but said he’d sign an extension.

“Members of the General Assembly have been considering this for a few years now,” Pritzker said. “I think it is going to reach some culmination either in the veto session or in the coming spring session and I look forward to hearing what the General Assembly would like to do.”

If the program is allowed to expire at the end of the year, parents with children in a private school now could find funding drying up before the start of the second half of the school year.

Parent Tracy Smith from Chicago brought her twin children to the capitol in Springfield Tuesday to urge for the measure’s extension.

“We give tax credits to movies, why can’t we give tax credits to kids,” Smith told The Center Square. “We have millions of dollars that’s being funded to house and home people, why can’t we not keep the doors of education open?”

Legislators continue session Wednesday.



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