Update: This bill was not heard on March 28th, and no vote was taken. It has a deadline extension through the end of spring session. We'll be keeping an eye on it.
Illinois Families for Public Schools is in Springfield today talking to legislators about our legislative agenda, including urging them to ensure that the existing Invest in Kids voucher program ends. Unfortunately, a bill to create an even larger, less regulated voucher scheme is in hearing this afternoon, HB 1573, the Education Savings Account Act.
Please take a minute to file a witness slip as an OPPONENT for this bill. (Here’s detailed instructions on filing a slip.)
HB 1573 would create taxpayer-funded bank accounts that families could use to pay for private school tuition and other expenses like tutoring or online classes. The funds deposited in accounts would come directly out of public school districts’ state funding allocations, reducing state aid for public school students.
Roughly 80% of Illinois households could be eligible to participate because the income limit would be up to 462% of the federal poverty line (FPL)—that’s $138,750 for a family of four.
The amount deposited in an ESA would range from 25 to 100% of the amount of state funding that a school district would have received for that student, depending on the child’s household income (e.g. up to 185% of FPL ⇒ 100% of state funding amount.) State funding per student varies by school district but was about $3,900 last year, considerably below the actual cost of attending private school in Illinois, $8,536 last year. (It’s not clear if students could also use Invest in Kids vouchers simultaneously with an ESA.)
Families could use funds deposited in an ESA for tuition, tutoring, online classes, and fees for “account management by private financial management firms.” The Illinois State Board of Education would be responsible for auditing whether funds were being used appropriately.
Eleven states now have ESA programs. Florida just passed one, as did Iowa, and theirs along with Utah, Arizona and Arkansas are or will soon be universal, i.e. available to every student in the state.
ESAs have even fewer restrictions and less oversight than traditional vouchers or tax credit scholarship schemes (=Illinois’ Invest in Kids program). Like the Invest in Kids Act this bill is based largely on a model bill from the far-right American Legislative Exchange Council.
This is a very far-reaching and dangerous piece of legislation. Please weigh in with an OPPONENT slip!