May 19th has come…and gone, but the General Assembly has not adjourned to end the spring session There’s no budget for FY 2024 yet, and we don’t yet know whether the Invest in Kids voucher program will be extended past the current sunset date.
Legislators will be back in Springfield next Wednesday. The real hard deadline to pass bills is May 31st, after which bills need a ⅗ majority to pass.
Basically, everything is up in the air, and a lot can happen before the dust settles on Spring Session!
The bigger picture...
The Invest in Kids program was passed as a temporary program with a sunset date because that was the only politically palatable way to get vouchers through the GA at that time—along with tying it to a historic revamp of state school funding in an environment where Governor Rauner was holding the public good hostage for his far-right agenda.
It’s now 2023, and we are seeing the impact of an extremist agenda on public schools around the country, including our nearest neighboring states, Missouri, Iowa, Indiana. The push to privatize the public school system via voucher schemes is being paired with a strident transphobic and homophobic agenda, an attempt to stamp out an accurate history of racial injustice, book bans, and demonization of teachers.
These are two sides of the same coin. It is no coincidence that there are religious schools getting Invest in Kids dollars in Illinois that are also discriminating against LGBTQ+ students, pregnant students or those who have had abortions, and undocumented students. It is no coincidence that the majority of schools do not support students who are learning English or have disabilities. It is no coincidence that Dan Proft, the Illinois Policy Institute and Wirepoints are some of the biggest cheerleaders for continuing Invest in Kids program. Nor that Betsy DeVos has been pouring money into Illinois political races.
A public school system that serves all is a public good. It is the foundation of a healthy pluralistic, multi-racial democracy. Diverting public dollars to a parallel private system that discriminates undermines this foundation. And, ultimately, undermining that foundation, in other words dismantling public education, is the larger goal of the school privatization movement.
Illinois has an opportunity to strike a different pro-public schools, pro-democracy, pro-civil rights path forward by letting Invest in Kids sunset as planned.
Let’s keep the pressure on and get this done!
What you can do...
Continued calls to your state rep and state senator are needed to urge them to let the Invest in Kids program sunset like intended. Find their numbers here (if they aren't yet in your contacts list!) and make a call. It’s fine to leave a message at both their district and Springfield office if no one picks up over the weekend, and call again early in the week.
"Hi I’m a constituent. The Invest in Kids voucher program needs to end. I urge you to oppose any extension of the Invest in Kids program. The scholarship-vouchers don't have to end, just the tax credits. Wealthy donors can continue writing checks so that students can continue attending these schools. But public funds need to go to public schools that serve everyone."
Please continue to spread the word about the issues with Invest in Kids and the need for it to end!
Here’s some new materials to share:
- "Vouchers hurt equity./Los vouchers dañan la equidad."
- "Do these wealthy private schools need Illinois’ taxpayer support?"
- Discrimination against undocumented students by voucher schools Twitter - Instagram - Facebook
- "Illinois is a beacon for civil rights. Invest in Kids must end" - Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
Look out for more updates next week. And if you haven’t sent an email to your legislator yet, please do: Tell your legislator it's "game over" for Illinois' voucher program! - Action Network