Low-income students in Illinois may lose their school choice scholarships by the end of the year after state legislators failed to address it last week.
During a three-day veto session, the Illinois House of Representatives could have extended the Invest in Kids Act program with House Bill 4194, but the House Speaker, Emanuel Chris Welch, D-Hillside, never called for a vote.
As a result, nearly 10,000 students could be without financial aid when the program expires Dec. 31, the Illinois Freedom Caucus lamented on Twitter.
While there was no vote for the bill, a handful of lawmakers discussed the tax-credit scholarship throughout the veto session, Nov. 7-9, on the House floor.
“Education choice is not a privilege for the select few; it is a fundamental right,” Rep. Blaine Wilhour, R-Beecher City, said.
Rep. Marty McLaughlin, R-Barrington Hills, also mentioned the number of students who would lose their school choice scholarships in various districts.
“Rep. Guzzardi, congratulations, 126 students in your district will lose their scholarship,” he said. “I certainly hope you provide them with thoughts and prayers.”
He continued to mention lawmakers by name and how many students would lose their school choice scholarships in their respective districts.
“I hope you know the personal faces of whose lives you just destroyed,” he said to another lawmaker.
McLaughlin said he heard from all 44 students in his district on the verge of losing their scholarships, and they are “devastated” by the “inaction” of the Legislature.
On Nov. 7, students from low-income families were seen at the Capitol, urging lawmakers to vote to extend the Invest in Kids Act and were chanting “save our scholarships.”
Also ahead of the vote, teachers’ unions that oppose the school choice program gave lawmakers some $1.5 million in support since June 1, according to the Illinois Policy Institute, which also said Speaker Welch sends his own children to a private school.
“Polling from the Illinois Policy Institute showed Invest in Kids was supported 3 to 1 by a bipartisan majority,” the think tank shared in a statement to The Lion. “The loudest opposition came from the Chicago Teachers Union, which contributed to 88 current Illinois lawmakers’ political committees, including 38 from outside Chicago’s city limits.”
“We will be relentless in our popular, bipartisan efforts to bring educational equity to every child in Illinois, especially the poor and minority children who need help the most,” Josh Bandoch, head of policy at Institute, said in the statement.