'Save my Scholarship' campaign fights budget cuts
A group of Illinois parents will be pleading with lawmakers in Springfield this week to try to save a private school scholarship program from being phased out under Gov. J.B. Pritzker's new budget plan.
The Invest in Kids pilot program began in 2017 to provide private school scholarships to students from low-income families living in poorly rated school districts. The governor has said the program would be phased out due to cuts in his new budget, and parents who formed the Save My Scholarship campaign will be meeting lawmakers in the Capitol Building to plead their case for a reprieve.
One single mother from Springfield was recently interviewed by WCIA about the impact that eliminating Invest in Kids would have on her family.
"This year [my kids] got full rides, so I was super-excited," she said. "But then literally three days later, I hear that [Pritzker]'s trying to get rid of the program that made me so excited and caused so much joy. I'm like, 'Why would he want to do that?'
"There's so many more moms like me," she continued. "We all live in this community. We're single. We are busting our butts trying to go to work. I already work too many hours as is to not make enough money. Why do you want to make it more difficult on us for our kids to have the same chance? Whether you want to believe it or not, it is a difference. And without programs like this, my kids just don't have a chance."
Invest in Kids funds its scholarships through tax-deductible donations from businesses and individuals, and Gov. Pritzker said he intends to limit the donation cap and cut the donations by 50 percent each year over the next three years and give more priority to public school funding. In addition, House Bill 2100 aims to abolish charter school commissions that help fund scholarships and transfer the former commission to the State Board of Education.
"HB 2100 will result in a state fiscal impact of $460,000 based on a net reduction of $840,000 in state expenditures and a reduction in $1.3 million in state revenue beginning in [fiscal year] 2021," according to the Illinois General Assembly website.
There is, however, a bipartisan effort underway to save the Invest in Kids program's funding. House Resolution 0289 is being sponsored by Reps. David McSweeney (R-Barrington Hills), Michael J. Zalewski (D-Riverside), Kelly M. Burke (D-Evergreen Park), Anthony DeLuca (D-Chicago Heights), Rita Mayfield (D-Waukegan), Elizabeth Hernandez (D-Cicero), Jonathan Carroll (D-Northbrook), Robert Rita (D-Blue Island), Allen Skillicorn (R-East Dundee) and Amy Grant (R-Wheaton).
Rep. Joyce Mason (D-Gurnee) has not publicly voiced neither support nor opposition for the Invest in Kids program, so many are anticipating that she will continue supporting anti-school choice bills as she has in the past.