Illinois Residents Debate On Tax Credit Scholarship Program For Private Schools

Lawmakers will decide if programs continues or comes to an end

NBC Universal, Inc.

Illinois residents are debating the effectiveness of a program that allows students to use taxpayer-funded scholarships to attend private schools.

Families that participate in the Invest In Kids program say it’s an invaluable resource, though critics say the initiative hurts public schools.

Tracy Smith of Hyde Park told NBC 5 that her 15-year-old twins are blazing a path to success, and it all began at St. Sabina Academy.

“Bringing them here is what I needed, what I wanted, and more than I ever anticipated for them,” Smith said.

Smith kept Christopher and Alexander enrolled in the Catholic school through a state tax credit scholarship program called Invest In Kids, which started in 2018 as a pilot program.

Businesses or individuals can donate money to scholarship granting organizations, or SGO’s, and in turn get as much as 75% of their donation back in tax credits.

The SGO then provides scholarships for students whose families meet income requirements to attend qualified private schools. Many of the scholarships are used at religious schools.

State lawmakers will soon be deciding whether to allow the program to continue or come to a close at the end of the year.

Greg Richmond is superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Chicago. He says the scholarships are helping thousands of needy kids get a good education and a better chance at life.

“We have had thousands and thousands of parents contact their legislators throughout the state, asking them to continue this important scholarship program for kids,” said Richmond. “The good news is the governor said he supports the program. He said that in his campaign last fall.”

But critics of the program say that it further damages underfunded public schools.

“We are still not fully funding our schools as we should,” said Kathi Griffin, president of the Illinois Education Association. “Once we get to fully funding our schools, then let’s talk about adding these types of programs. But we need to take care of all of our students.

A spokesperson for Gov. J.B. Pritzker's office released the following statement to NBC 5.

"The Invest in Kids Act has to pass the General Assembly. If it doesn’t pass that would not be the Governor eliminating it, that would be the General Assembly eliminating it," the statement said.

Contact Us