Parents make plea for school scholarship program
A group of concerned parents recently traveled to Springfield to plead directly with Gov. J.B. Pritzker about saving a private school scholarship program he has targeted for dissolution as part of his proposed state budget.
"This year they got full rides, so I was like super excited," Jasmine Bland, a Springfield mother of two young children that are part of the program, told WCIA.com. "But then literally like three days later, I hear that [Pritzker]'s trying to get rid of the program that made me so excited and caused so much joy. I'm like, 'Why would he want to do that?'"
Bland said she knows she’s not alone in feeling frustrated and frightened for her children's future.
“There's so many more moms like me,” she added. “Why do you want to make it more difficult on us for our kids to have the same chance? Whether you want to believe it or not, it is a difference. And without programs like this, my kids just don't have a chance."
As part of the Save My Scholarship movement, dozens of parents flooded the halls of the State Capitol Building in hopes of convincing as many lawmakers as they can to take a stance against Pritzker on the issue. “I can think of no more important or powerful voice for the importance of this program than that of a parent whose child received a scholarship,” Empower Illinois director Anthony Holter told the Marietta Daily Journal.
There is a bipartisan effort underway in Springfield to save the Invest in Kids program's funding. House Resolution 0289 is being sponsored by Reps. David McSweeney (R-Barrington Hills), Michael J. Zalewski (D-Riverside), Kelly M. Burke (D-Evergreen Park), Anthony DeLuca (D-Chicago Heights), Rita Mayfield (D-Waukegan), Elizabeth Hernandez (D-Cicero), Jonathan Carroll (D-Northbrook), Robert Rita (D-Blue Island), Allen Skillicorn (R-East Dundee) and Amy Grant (R-Wheaton).
Democratic state Rep. Mark Walker (Arlington Heights) is not among the legislators to sign on in support of HR 0289 and is expected to back the governor's budget cuts.
Invest in Kids operates by allowing state-level tax credits from wealthy donors used to sponsor scholarship funds for poor children in underperforming school districts to attend private schools. Critics have argued that by incentivizing some students to walk away from the public school systems, it’s conceivable that some districts could receive less in funding based on dwindling student populations.
Pritzker campaigned on a platform of eliminating the program in three years instead of the five it was originally earmarked for. The governor's supporters also pegged savings to the state from the phase-out of the program in the neighborhood of $6 million.