Illinois Lawmakers: Let the State’s Private School Voucher Law Sunset
A new Public Funds Public Schools policy brief calls on Illinois lawmakers to reject any attempts to extend or make permanent the “Invest in Kids” private school voucher program, which is set to sunset after the 2023-2024 school year.
The Invest in Kids tax credit voucher law was enacted in 2017, within a broader education funding bill that was a historic rewrite of Illinois’ public school funding formula. It included a sunset provision, sometimes used to pass controversial or unpopular legislation, which would terminate the program following the 2022-2023 school year. The program was extended for an additional year in Illinois’ 2023 appropriations bill.
Under the voucher program, individuals and businesses receive a 75% income tax credit for contributions to third-party organizations that provide vouchers for private school tuition. Each year, up to $75 million in tax revenue is diverted to private schools. Over $190 million has been rerouted to private education over the past four years.
The PFPS brief, entitled Let the Illinois “Invest in Kids” Private School Voucher Law Sunset, explains that the program lacks accountability, with no publicly available data on student outcomes as of spring 2023, despite the law requiring that voucher students take the same state tests as public school students.
“There is no evidence to show that the Invest in Kids voucher program is effective,” said Nicole Ciullo, Research and Policy Associate at Education Law Center, which directs the work of the PFPS campaign. “In fact, this program harms, rather than helps, Illinois students.”
The PFPS brief notes that vouchers fund private schools that often discriminate against students and families based on disability, LGBTQ+ status, religion, English fluency, and other characteristics. Illinois Families for Public Schools (ILFPS), one of over 50 local, state, and national advocacy groups calling on Illinois lawmakers to sunset the voucher program, has documented numerous instances of discriminatory practices in Illinois’ voucher schools, including that only 15% of schools receiving vouchers reported enrolling any students with disabilities in 2021-2022.
“PFPS’s brief underscores what Illinois lawmakers need to hear: there is every reason to sunset the Invest in Kids voucher program and focus on our public schools, which welcome all children but urgently need adequate resources to serve them,” said Dr. Cassie Creswell, Director of ILFPS.
The PFPS brief concludes that Illinois lawmakers must focus on fully resourcing the state’s public schools, which need over $7 billion in state aid to reach full funding.
To learn more about issues related to the Invest in Kids tax credit private school voucher program and how you can help support the law’s sunset, join the webinar hosted by ILFPS at 7 p.m. CT on April 25 by registering here.
To access additional PFPS tools for advocates, including policy briefs, fact sheets, and an extensive series of webinars, visit the Advocacy webpage. Visit the Research webpage for studies showing the harms of private school voucher programs on students and on public schools. Use the PFPS bill tracker to monitor voucher legislation from current and past legislative sessions.
Read Education Law Center’s research report on the underfunding of Illinois public schools and access interactive charts here.