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School choice group says Illinois parents in limbo with fate of Invest in Kids program unknown

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(The Center Square) – Nearly 10,000 scholarship recipients and their families face uncertainty after Illinois lawmakers failed to extend the Invest in Kids program.

The program, which grants tax credits to people who use private dollars to fund scholarships that allow students to attend private schools, is scheduled to sunset Dec. 31.

The Invest in Kids Act became law in 2017, when lawmakers met during closed-door negotiations to overhaul how the state funded public education and brought an end to a budget impasse. It was agreed the program would sunset after five years unless extended.

The latest state budget, which included another raise for lawmakers and taxpayer subsidies for noncitizen health care, did not include an extension for the school choice scholarship program.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker recently said lawmakers could approve an extension during a special session or during the fall veto session, but that the tax credit portion of the program needs to be reworked.

“I think we should have tax credits that support education and other things in state government, but we also have the federal government willing to cover about 40% of the cost,” Pritzker said. “Why have we created a program in which we’re paying for 75% of it and not having the rest of the country essentially paying 40%?”

Anthony Holter, president of nonprofit educational organization Empower Illinois, said they are open to such an idea but only to a certain extent.

“The concern comes with what would the overall reduction of the state credit be,” Holter told The Center Square. “Do we want to hold as much value for donors as we can in that tax credit and federal deduction combination and incentivize the incredible generous giving that so many donors have engaged in over the past several years?”

Empower Illinois is part of a consortium that is conducting a public service campaign called “Remove the Sunset” and are calling on lawmakers to extend the Invest in Kids program.

Holter said he is hopeful lawmakers will take up and extend the program later this year during the fall veto session.

“It really is the last opportunity to do what’s right for kids,” Holter said. “I’m optimistic that lawmakers will understand that and do the right thing.”

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