A closer look at the end of vouchers and Catholic school closings

In late January the Archdiocese of Chicago announced the closing of two schools and blamed the closings on the end of the Invest in Kids program. The Diocese of Belleville also announced two school closings, also attributing the end of Invest in Kids as a factor in the decision. The Diocese of Joliet also announced a school closure and a school consolidation last month and attributed the closure to the end of the voucher program. Below we take a closer look at Catholic school enrollment (and what little is known about their finances) to evaluate these claims.

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Moms for Liberty extremists target parent leader organizing for racial justice in Skokie schools

Parents, students and teachers in Skokie have been organizing for racial justice in their public schools for several years, especially in D219 (Niles Township HS district) and D72 (Fairview Elem district), as the Abolition Coalition of Skokie and the Skokie Schools Equity Collaborative. 

Niles Township has also been one of the hot spots in Illinois for rightwing extremist attacks against public schools and public libraries.

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Vouchers are sunsetting: What's next?

The Illinois General Assembly left Springfield at the end of Veto Session without taking a vote to extend the program beyond its current sunset date, and the program will begin to sunset on Dec. 31, 2023. This was a huge organizing win for public schools in Illinois and a major victory in the national fight to rollback privatization of the public school system. 

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A Win for Public Schools: Illinois' Invest in Kids voucher program will sunset

Today, the Illinois House adjourned until January 16, 2024 without passing an extension to the Invest in Kids Act. The provisions of the Act begin expiring on January 1, 2024.

This is a huge win for public schools in Illinois. It is also a win for the principle of the separation of church and state and for ensuring public dollars are not used to violate civil rights and are spent with the oversight, transparency and accountability that public spending should require. Public funds must be for public schools that serve all kids.

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Case studies: What do Illinois tax dollars fund in private schools?

Since 2018, more than $250 million has been diverted from Illinois' General Revenue Fund and sent to private, almost all religious schools under the Invest in Kids Act. Last school year 478 schools enrolled more than 9,600 voucher recipients. Unlike public schools, private schools receiving Invest in Kids funds have little oversight, transparency or accountability for the funds they are receiving and do not have to follow most of the same laws and regulations that cover public schools. Here are three case studies of Illinois private schools getting Invest in Kids funding that take a closer look at the problems with using public funds for private schools.  

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Public funds should be for underfunded public schools in Illinois

Private schools in the 8th Senate District enrolled about 1,300 voucher students last year. Public schools enrolled more than 22,000 students, and 13,739 of those were in underfunded schools.

So, state legislators in the 8th Senate District and 15th and 16th House Districts are representing many families of students receiving vouchers but also at least ten times as many families of students that attend underfunded public schools. Public schools in the 8th District are short more than $47 million in state funding each year ($11M in House 16, $36M in House 15.) 

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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.

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Chicago's Elected Board Members Should be Paid

The Illinois Senate's Special Committee on the Chicago Elected Representative School Board met yesterday and on October 3rd for subject matter hearings on the upcoming elected board. Illinois Families for Public Schools submitted written testimony urging the General Assembly to make the elected board members a compensated position. Read our full testimony below.

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Why are Charles Koch & his rightwing billionaire friends trying to “save” Illinois’ voucher program?

A group founded and funded by the far-right billionaire Koch brothers, Americans For Prosperity, is making a new push in Illinois to stop the Invest in Kids voucher program from sunsetting. We're not taking it lightly, and neither should our General Assembly and Governor.

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A real LGBTQ+ ally opposes vouchers!

The Human Rights Campaign has declared a national state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people in response to the alarming surge in anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the country. 

Tonight, the HRC Steering Committee of Chicago is holding a town hall in Lake View at 6pm to discuss how to ensure Illinois remains a safe haven for all in the midst of this emergency. (Details and registration here.)

State Representative Kevin Olickal is on the panel and that raises a big question.

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