Illinois’ Invest in Kids scholarship program, funded by private donations eligible for state tax credits, passed in 2017 with bipartisan support. State tax credits are a form of spending. So do teachers’ unions have a point when they claimed that the school choice program could reduce public school funding? New data prove that isn’t the case. Since the 2018-2019 school year, public education in the Prairie State has received a $1.98 billion increase, despite a 7.5% decrease in public school enrollment.
One-hundred and forty-seven thousand fewer students are today being educated by Illinois’ public school system since the 2018-2019 school year. And yet more money is being spent to do it. Scholastic outcomes in the public school system, meanwhile, are worse than ever. Since that time, math proficiency in 3rd through 8th grade students has dropped by six points, while reading proficiency dropped by eight points.
Offering families (and particularly low-income families) the opportunity to choose a better education for their children is central not only to creating good citizens but safeguarding the guarantees of the First Amendment. Senator Tim Scott called it a “civil rights issue,” and he’s not wrong. School choice offers families with few means the chance to express their values and create better lives for the next generation. Yet Illinois recently opted not to renew the tax credits for donations to the Invest in Kids program, which is set to expire on December 31st. We urge Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the state legislature to reconsider during the fall session in Springfield – and recommit to offering struggling families a lifeline.
They’ll hardly be alone in doing so. Today, 32 states and Washington, D.C., have private school choice programs. They can’t all be wrong.
Research shows that for every student attending a private school, a state saves between $1,650 and $3,000. Ninety-six hundred students in Illinois rely on Invest in Kids – and there are 26,000 families on the waiting list. That’s one math problem that the governor and legislators can solve.