Stop Vouchers in Illinois

Update (11/9/2023)

The following statement is attributable to Illinois Education Association (IEA) President Al Llorens:

“It is a new day in Illinois. We are incredibly grateful to our lawmakers for choosing to end the voucher scheme known as Invest in Kids. This program sent millions of taxpayer dollars to private schools and was created under the guise of helping students of color, but we now know the funds went primarily to white students.

The voucher system was intentionally created with a lack of oversight and accountability, leaving us with no data to measure its effectiveness. Public money belongs in public schools and we are glad our lawmakers believe that, too. Eighty percent of our public schools in Illinois are underfunded. We need to focus on providing the necessary funding to our public schools so that all children in Illinois continue to have access to a high-quality, public education.”

One of the country’s biggest school voucher schemes is operating right here in Illinois. It began as a temporary five-year program under the guise of helping low-income and students of color to have a choice. This program drains up to $75 million of state money that could be used to support the 80 percent of Illinois schools that are underfunded – the schools that 90 percent of students in Illinois attend. Public dollars belong in public schools.

However, the Invest in Kids data show:

  • More white students are helped than any other;
  • Students at these schools are not subject to the same testing standards, nor are teachers held to the same professional standards, as those in public schools;
  • There is no data to show how many students actually switched from public schools to private schools, or whether public money is now funding students who have been in private schools all along.

And, these schools can discriminate based on physical or emotional special needs, gender identity issues, moral values or religion.

The Invest in Kids program, intentionally deceitfully named, has lasted longer and helped fewer students than promised. And now, special interests want it to continue indefinitely.

Through the program, businesses or individuals can donate money to scholarship granting organizations and, in turn, get as much as 75 percent of their donation back in tax credits. Then parents at private schools, mostly religious, apply for that $75 million in scholarship money to send their children to private institutions.

That’s public money funding private schools. That’s $75 million a year that could be being used to ease the burden on property taxes and help fully fund the evidence-based funding formula, which will help the more than 80 percent of neighborhood public schools in Illinois that are currently underfunded.