The fate of a popular but contentious private school scholarship program is in the hands of lawmakers who returned to Springfield on Tuesday for the autumn veto session.
For the previous five years, the initiative, which is due to conclude at the end of the year, has provided additional educational possibilities for poor families. The majority attend private religious schools. Proponents of public education are opposed to the program.
ABC7 met with a single mother who is concerned about what she and her son would do if the program is canceled.
Kimberly White and her 15-year-old son, Ian White-Holmes, are preoccupied with matters other than his education. They are concerned about the Invest in Kids Act’s future.
Ian, a freshman at Leo Catholic High School, is eligible for a scholarship program that provides tax credits to contributors, resulting in a scholarship that pays approximately 90% of Ian’s tuition.
“Ian’s father died about six years ago. And, as a result of his death, we had no financial assistance. So, with the scholarships, it’s helping us get through those humps and bumps,” Kimberly explained.
If lawmakers do not extend the program, it could mean the end of financial aid for more than 9,600 low-income students.
The Big Shoulders Fund, which helps manage some of the scholarships, is led by Josh Hale.
“Another 25,000-26,000 children are on the waiting list.” As a result, it demonstrates an interest in this. It is not the answer. “It’s part of a solution to create a more equitable educational landscape in the state of Illinois,” Hale explained.
St. Sabina Church members rode a bus to Springfield on Tuesday to petition lawmakers to keep the program going.
However, strong groups such as the Illinois Federation of Teachers are urging Congress to repeal it.
Governor JB Pritzker has stated that he will wait and see what the General Assembly accomplishes.
“Public education deserves our undivided attention, and we must ensure that we continue to adequately fund public education.” And, you know, there are others who want us to lose sight of the ball. “And that’s not something I want to do,” Pritzker explained.
There is a lot at stake for families like the Whites.
“But, I personally would say, ‘Why wouldn’t you just keep renewing it?’ Like, it’s helping so many kids,” Ian said.
“I’m just gonna keep doing the best I can to keep him there, even if that means I have to take on an extra job or something like that. But, I want to keep him there at this point. It is very important. So, we need to keep that funding going,” Kimberly said.
On Tuesday afternoon, a group of Democratic senators introduced legislation to change the present program, cutting the tax benefit for donors and the total gift levels while simultaneously motivating donations to the state’s most underprivileged areas. It is unclear how much support that bill will receive.