Statement on Pritzker's Vow to Sign Any Bill that Extends Voucher Program

Yesterday Governor Pritzker said that he would sign an extension to the Invest in Kids act in “whatever form” the Illinois General Assembly sent it to himThe Governor’s statement and his support of continuing the program are not aligned with the policies and values he has said he supports. You can read our full statement below and share it from here.

Please take a minute this afternoon to call both the Governor and your own state senator and state rep to say that the Invest in Kids program must end as scheduled. Public funds must be for public schools that serve all kids.

Gov. Pritzker: 217-782-6830 or 217-782-6830

Find your legislators' contact info: 

You can also fill out an online "Voice an Opinion" form to tell Gov. Pritzker to retract his support for continuing the harmful program.

Illinois Families for Public Schools’ Statement on Pritzker’s Vow to Sign an Extension of the Illinois Voucher Program

We are profoundly disappointed at Governor Pritzker’s statement yesterday that he is committed to signing any bill sent to him that would extend the Invest in Kids voucher program.

This commitment contradicts the statements he made when he ran for governor in 2018, including his response to our candidate questionnaire:

“I oppose Bruce Rauner’s backdoor voucher program that was inserted into the school funding reform bill last year. As governor, I will work to repeal that measure."

Worse yet, it conflicts with the values Pritzker has espoused again and again in his time in office: That Illinois is a welcoming and inclusive state where it is unacceptable to treat individuals differently because of their identity, where justice and equity make Illinois a safe space for all, where we want our young people “to become critical thinkers, exposed to ideas that they disagree with, proud of what our nation has overcome, and thoughtful about what comes next”, where K-12 schools are “liberatory learning environments that welcome and affirm LGBTQ+ young people, especially those how are transgender, nonbinary, intersex, Black, Indigenous, people of color, people with disabilities, and all communities that experience marginalization.

Since 2018, the Invest in Kids voucher program has diverted more than $250 million in state funds to private schools, 95% of which are religious. Religious schools, even those getting public dollars, can and do legally discriminate against nearly any protected category of student, family or staff:

  • At least 85 schools in the Invest in Kids program, nearly 1 in 5, have anti-LGBTQ+ policies
  • Only 13% of private schools in the Invest in Kids program last year reported to the Illinois State Board of Education that they served any special education students. The majority of schools in the program are Catholic schools, and four of six Catholic dioceses in Illinois have policies that say schools may refuse to accommodate students with disabilities. 
  • Policies that discriminate against pregnant and parenting students, students who have had an abortion, English-language learners, students with disabilities, undocumented students, and more are widespread in Illinois voucher schools as well

Due to recent Supreme Court decisions, there is essentially no way to have a state voucher program that only funds non-religious schools or alternatively prohibits religious schools from discriminating based on religious belief. As such, there is no way to end discrimination in voucher schools in Illinois short of ending the program altogether. 

Extending the voucher program is supported by anti-public good extremist groups, including Betsy DeVos-funded Illinois Federation for Children, the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity, Awake Illinois, and Moms for Liberty Lake County.

Access to a well-resourced public education is a fundamental right. Illinois public schools are still short billions of dollars in state funding needed to educate their students.

Public dollars must be for used public schools that welcome and educate all children, as well as protect their civil rights. Strong public schools are the foundation of a healthy, pluralistic democracy and are a public good that benefits everyone in Illinois.

It is unacceptable to continue the Invest in Kids program in any form.

Why is Governor Pritzker thinking so small when it comes to our public schools?