Politicians Align With Teachers Union, Reject School Choice Program That Would Help Minority Kids

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Sarah Wilder Social Issues Reporter
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A voucher program known as “Invest in Kids,” which provides over 9,600 low-income kids with scholarships, was voted down by lawmakers in the Illinois state legislature on Thursday.

The “Invest in Kids” act offers a tax credit to businesses and individuals that contribute to a scholarship fund that allows low-income kids to go to certain non-public schools in the state. The program has awarded $75 million in tax credits in the 2022-2023 school year and helped 9,656 students. As the program was voted down, 24,000 students were in line to receive the scholarship. About 72% of scholarship recipients are non-white.

The act was set to expire by the end of the year, and Democrats in the legislature killed an effort to renew the program. Republicans tried and failed to bring the matter to a vote. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: States Rally To Support Mom Suing School That Allegedly Hid Daughter’s Gender Transition)

Students rallied in the capitol building urging lawmakers to “save my scholarship.”

“I, myself, was an underpriviledged kid that got a scholarship to a high school. That changed my life and the lives of four of my best friends, people of color, who went on to successful careers,” Republican state Rep. Martin McLaughlin said. “This is personal to me, and it is personal to hundreds and thousands of families that you put in terrible jeopardy, and you’ve destroyed their opportunity to an equitable education.”

The Chicago Teachers Union contributed at least $40,500 to lawmakers since June 1, according to Illinois Policy, and the National Education Association has contributed $1.1 million since June 1.

The Chicago Teachers Union celebrated the defeat of “Invest In Kids” in a Thursday press release.

“The dedicated efforts of organizers and advocates made this triumph for public education possible, marking a significant milestone in the fight for anti-racist, gender affirming, pro-immigrant, equitable and fully funded public schools,” they said.

“This achievement is not just a win against a flawed voucher program, but it strikes an incredible blow to a movement that is dead set on destroying public education and destabilizing Black, Brown and working class communities.”

A June poll found that residents of Illinois support “Invest in Kids” by a 3 to 1 margin.