It's Election Eve. Here's what you need to know before you vote.
Tomorrow, Tuesday April 4th, is Election Day all across Illinois, including in Chicago.
These local elections are crucial ones for our public schools in Chicago and in dozens of districts around the state: Will we continue to have strong public schools committed to serving all our children?Read more
DeVos backing Vallas in Chicago mayor's race & other voucher-related news
On Wednesday night, IL-FPS broke the news that Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education under former (and now indicted) President Trump, was spending thousands in the mayoral race in support of Paul Vallas.Read more
MEDIA RELEASE: Paul Vallas Lies about Support, Connections with Trump Secretary of Ed Betsy DeVos
CHICAGO — Mayoral candidate Paul Vallas is falsely denying his connections to former President Trump’s former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and an Illinois Super PAC that DeVos funds.
[full press release after the jump]Read more
MEDIA RELEASE: Betsy DeVos’ Super PAC Spending Thousands To Elect Paul Vallas Mayor Of Chicago
CHICAGO — Last week ex-President Trump’s former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos made a $59,000 independent expenditure in support of mayoral candidate Paul Vallas’ campaign from a Super PAC she funds, the Illinois Federation for Children PAC.
The Illinois Federation for Children PAC was established in March 2022 and has received $465,000 in total from DeVos’ American Federation for Children Action Fund, a national 527 PAC. The Illinois Federation PAC’s chair, Nathan Hoffman, was a registered contract lobbyist in Springfield for the American Federation for Children until January this year.
[full press release after the jump]Read more
COMUNICADO DE PRENSA: El Super PAC de Betsy DeVos gasta miles para elegir a Paul Vallas alcalde de Chicago
CHICAGO — La semana pasada, la ex secretaria de Educación del ex presidente Trump, Betsy DeVos, realizó un gasto independiente de $59.000 dólares en apoyo de la campaña del candidato a la alcaldía Paul Vallas de un Súper PAC que financia, la Federación de Illinois para Niños PAC.
El PAC de la Federación de Illinois para Niños se estableció en marzo de 2022 y ha recibido $465.000 en total del Fondo de Acción de la Federación Americana para Niños de DeVos, un PAC nacional 527 financiada por Devos y su esposo. El presidente del PAC de la Federación de Illinois, Nathan Hoffman, fue un lobbista contratado registrado en Springfield para la Federación Americana de Niños hasta enero de este año.
[comunicado de prensa completo después del salto]Read more
Hundreds of bills are introduced in Springfield every session. Here's some of the bills that we'll be supporting or following closely during the spring 2023 session of the 103nd IL General Assembly.
Key legislative initiative
Sunset Invest in Kids voucher program - [Fact Sheet] The Invest in Kids Act created a school voucher program in the form of a tax credit scholarship scheme in 2017. The Act was to sunset after five years, but has already been extended for one year. More than three dozen local, state and national orgs have endorsed letting this program sunset as planned. If no new legislation is passed to amend the act, next school year will be the final year of the program with a sunset date for all provisions of Jan 1, 2025. (As such, there is more than one bill which may move that would implement a sunset or none at all.) Read more about our campaign to end it here.
Other bills we support
Clean Air for Healthy Equitable Schools - HB 3713 [Fact Sheet] Initiative of Illinois Stakeholders for Air Quality in Schools. It will be amended to include not just ventilation verification assessments but the distribution of high-quality HEPA filters and air quality monitors to immediately improve air quality for all children, teachers, and staff in IL public schools.
Racism Free Schools - SB 90/HB 2049 [Fact Sheet] Requires school districts to create and implement a policy on race-related harassment and discrimination and classifies racial harassment as a civil rights violation. Read more details about the bill content here.
Child Tax Credit - SB 1444/HB 3950 [Fact Sheet] Illinois has long had one of the most regressive state tax systems in the country, in part because the Illinois constitution bars the state from levying a graduated income tax, and so Illinois does not have the ability to raise income tax rates for the people who can afford to pay the most. Until the constitution is amended, advocacy orgs from around the state, including IL Families for Public Schools, are partnering with the Cost of Living Refund Coalition to ameliorate the effects of IL’s regressive tax policies with tax credits for lower-income brackets. This session the coalition is supporting a child tax credit; eligible low- and middle-income Illinois families would receive a $700 tax credit for each child under the age of 17. This would benefit half of Illinois households with children.
Minimum Funding Level - HB 2792 Increases the minimum required increase to Evidence-Based Funding (EBF) to $550M instead of the current $350M. State funding for public schools is billions short of what each district needs to adequately educate its students. With an increase to EBF each year of only $350M, we will not reach full funding until 2054. Resetting the minimum to $550M would be a positive step to accelerating the path to fair funding for Illinois' public schools.
No Book Bans - HB 2789 Protects against attempts to ban, remove, or otherwise restrict access to books or other materials in the State's public libraries and public school libraries by requiring school and public libraries to adopt policies against censorship and book banning in order to receive grants from the Illinois State Library, including the School District Library Grant. (Many school districts already have existing policies on the books that would meet the requirements of this bill.)
Looking for our past legislative agendas? 2022 - 102nd GA, 2021 - 102nd GA; 2020 - 101st GA; 2019 - 101st GA; 2018 - 100th GA
Who Supports Illinois’ Invest in Kids Voucher Program?
Voucher programs around the country—whether in the form of traditional vouchers, education savings accounts (ESAs),or tax credit scholarships—are supported by well funded and organized groups. These include: Americans for Prosperity (the Koch brothers’ 501c4), the American Legislative Education Council (ALEC), the American Federation for Children (Betsy DeVos’ 501c4), Moms for Liberty and the Heritage Foundation, among others.
What do these organizations have in common? They work openly to discredit public schools and push a privatization agenda, using the slogans of school choice, education freedom and parent rights.
Are these groups in Illinois?
Yes, DeVos’ American Federation for Children has had a full time lobbyist in Springfield since February 2022, Nate Hoffman. In addition, AFC has a PAC, the Illinois Federation for Children, formed in March 2022, chaired by Hoffman, which spent more than $700K on Illinois elections in 2022.
Hoffman previously worked for Empower Illinois, the largest Invest in Kids scholarship granting organization (SGO), i.e. an organizational middleman for voucher distribution; and ExcelinEd, Jeb Bush’s ed privatization think tank. He is a board member of Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism (FAIR), an national organization founded by Megyn Kelly that has been active locally in Evanston IL to oppose diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.
The Illinois affiliate connected to the State Policy Network, a sister organization to ALEC, is the Illinois Policy Institute, known for its role in the anti-union Janus decision, is a major supporter of Invest in Kids. You can watch a recent video where AFC’s Hoffman is interviewed by IPI’s Hilary Gowins, senior vice president of the Illinois Policy Institute here.
Moms for Liberty lists four chapters in Illinois, and two of their chapter leaders are also leaders of Awake IL (DuPage County, Cook County.) Both of these groups have actively worked against covid mitigation measures in schools, comprehensive sex education, social-emotional learning, as well as teaching about race and honest history. They have promoted book bans at schools and libraries, for material on topics like LGBTQ+ individuals,and race.
Awake IL’s parental bill of rights calls for allowing parents to “take their children’s taxpayer-funded education dollars to the education providers of their choosing whether public or private,” and the document links that phrase to the Education Freedom Pledge of the American Federation of Children, a pledge signed by a single Illinois lawmaker thus far. They extol their support for “education freedom” on social media, and one of their board members runs a chain of private schools that Awake promotes on their website, along with other new private schools.
Betsy DeVos headlined the Moms for Liberty conference in July 2022, which featured a session on “education freedom,” aka an even broader set of ways to funnel public dollars to private education schemes.
What other organizations support Invest in Kids in Illinois?
The main beneficiaries of Invest in Kids include the Archdiocese of Chicago and other organizations that run or support religious schools. 95% of Invest in Kids’ $75M in vouchers went to religious schools in 2021-2022—at least 40% ($30M) of that to 349 Catholic schools, and at least 28% ($20M) to 19 Jewish schools.
There are two scholarship granting organizations (SGO) connected to the Archdiocese, the Big Shoulders Fund and Empower Illinois. Empower IL, the state's largest SGO, was formed in 2012, originally called Freedom to Learn IL and then One Chance IL. Empower was key in drafting and passing the Invest in Kids Act in 2017. Dan Proft was an original board member of Freedom to Learn. Juan Rangel, known for his role in multiple scandals connected to the UNO Charter chain in Chicago, is on the staff of Empower.
Scholarship granting organizations can use up to 5% of their contributions for operating costs, including lobbying, which would be ~$2.4M for Empower and $1.2M for Big Shoulders in 2021-2022.
Another active group lobbying for Invest in Kids is Agudath Israel of Illinois, sending busloads of voucher supporters to Springfield at a time. Vouchers are a national policy priority for Agudath Israel. Agudath of IL’s primary SGO partner on Invest in Kids is Empower IL; one of their executive committee members, is on the Empower board of directors and the board of several schools accepting vouchers. Agudath went as far as setting up a warehouse in 2018 with hundreds of computers and fiber optic lines to get students’ applications to Invest in Kids completed.
What does all this mean for citizens concerned about public funds supporting private schools?
Here’s a question to ask your state representative and state senator:
Why would a legislator who considers themselves pro-public education support a program that sends public tax dollars to private religious schools, and thereby align themselves with groups affiliated with Betsy DeVos, the Koch Brothers and other conservative organizations who support policies to dismantle public education that they reject?
Public dollars should be used to support public schools which open their doors to all kids without discriminating on the basis of religion, disability status, sexual orientation, gender identity. Public education and public schools are a public good that benefits everyone.
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More information about the Invest in Kids voucher program, why it needs to end, and what you can do to make that happen at: ilfps.org/sunsetinvestILvouchers
RYH Action: Explained!
Who are we? What do we do? What do we believe? What can you do to support us?
We are a 501(c)4 organization. Please donate to support our work here.Read more
Legislators tell Rauner to say NO to the Trump/DeVos Education Agenda
Prompted by a group of 21 community and advocacy organizations, 34 legislators have signed a letter to Governor Bruce Rauner to urge him to keep school voucher programs out of Illinois and to keep public dollars within the public education system not to be diverted to private and religious schools.Read more