Legislators have yet to address extending Illinois’ school choice program

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(The Center Square) – Despite hundreds of parents and children chanting for the Invest in Kids extension to be called for a vote, Illinois Democrats have yet to do so.

The school choice scholarship tax credit program will expire on Dec. 31 if lawmakers don’t pass an extension this week.

Republicans have been pleading for the legislation to extend the program to be called for a vote. From the House floor Tuesday, State Rep. Dan Ugaste, R-Geneva, called on his fellow lawmakers to do the right thing.

“All of you get to decide, let’s remove this sunset,” Ugaste said. “It’s solely about providing children with a quality education. It’s about their future.”

Senate Minority Leader John Curran, R-Downers Grove, said Republicans would accept the changes proposed by Democrats.

“It does shrink it but it continues it and we support that compromise and we support the movement to continue this program going forward,” Curran said during a Tuesday news conference.

The current program allows for private donations to get a 75% Illinois income tax credit to fund school choice for eligible families under a certain income threshold. The Democrats’ scaled back version would cap the program at $50 million from the current $75 million, and would cut in half the largest possible donation to $500,000.

“For six years, the State of Illinois has been refunding donors to this program up to 75 percent of what they gave. It’s a flawed program and it puts the state into a precarious position of funding private schools while continuing to underfund 80% of public schools,” Illinois Education Association president Al Llorens in a said statement.

Illinois teachers unions have made it clear they want to see the program come to an end. According to Illinois Policy, the unions have funneled more than $21 million to lawmakers who will make the decision, with nearly $1.5 million coming since June 1.

In the 2022-2023 school year, 9,656 students received Invest in Kids scholarships to attend the school of their choice. Since the program launched in 2018, nearly 41,000 scholarships have been awarded.

“The truth is our most vulnerable students would be affected by the loss of the program,” said Roni Facen, principal of St. Francis de Sales High School. “I know, because I was just like them, sitting in some of the same desks at the exact same high school with a similar life-changing scholarship.”

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