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Education expert analyzes Invest in Kids’ record-breaking numbers for final year

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(The Center Square) – Despite record-breaking enrollment for its final year, Illinois lawmakers have yet to address the expired Invest in Kids school choice scholarship program.

There were rumblings that the General Assembly may take up the program during the spring legislative session, but that has yet to happen.

According to the American Federation for Children, the program witnessed over 15,000 students in its last academic year, marking a significant increase from prior years.

Despite a loud call to renew the program, lawmakers last spring chose to let the program expire for its seventh school year, a win for teachers unions that claimed that it directed money from public schools.

“My first reaction to it is it’s just a sad situation in terms of the amount of students that are coming into the program and telling them the next school year they are not going to be able to go to the same school that is serving them well,” said AFC spokesperson Hera Varmah.

Before it expired at the end of last year, Invest in Kids allowed Illinois residents and businesses to receive a tax credit worth 75% of their contributions to scholarship granting organizations that fund scholarships for low-income students to attend qualified private and technical schools.

Several private schools announced they were closing at the end of the school year because so many students relied on Invest in Kids scholarships. Last week, St. Bede School in Ingleside announced it will shut its doors unless the program is renewed. A $500,000 fundraising effort is not enough to save the school.

Empower Illinois and other proponents of the Invest in Kids program plan to continue lobbying for its return.

Darnell Starks of Peoria, who has two granddaughters who were enrolled in the program, drove to Springfield last week to urge lawmakers to take action because he said they can’t afford to send the girls to their former school.

“We’ve been very concerned that the state legislature hasn’t renewed this program, because without it, these two can’t attend the school of their choice and it’s been a perfect fit for them,” Starks told The Center Square.

Greg Bishop contributed to this report.

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