Gov. J.B. Pritzker changed his stand on school choice, stating he supports the Invest in Kids tax credit scholarship program, according to a Chicago Sun-Times candidate questionnaire.
“With assurance from the advocates for Invest in Kids that they will support increased public-school funding, my budgets have ultimately included the relatively small Invest in Kids Scholarship Program,” Pritzker responded.
It’s the opposite of what then-candidate Pritzker had in mind for the program when he ran for governor in 2018.
“I’m opposed to that $75 million tax credit, that school voucher system,” he said, adding, “We should as soon as possible do away with it. What I oppose is taking money out of the public schools, and that’s what happened here.”
A common claim is the program takes funds from public schools. Invest in Kids is paid entirely by donors, who then get a 75% state tax credit.
But Pritzker wanted to reduce the credit to 40% and cut program funding by $14 million.
His change of heart is welcome, especially as Chicago Public Schools is failing students with enrollment dropping 80,000 students and costs rising $2.5 billion since 2010. Just 21% of Chicago’s third through eighth graders on average were proficient in reading and 17% in math in 2021.
An April 2021 poll found 61% of Illinois voters support Invest in Kids. The program helps 7,600 low-income students attend a private school of their choice, but 26,000 more were on the waiting list hoping the program would expand.
State lawmakers Nov. 15 return to Springfield for their veto session. Making the Invest in Kids program permanent and expanding it to include preschool and allow business donors to target schools would be a solid accomplishment.
Plus, Pritzker’s new stance might mean he’s now more likely to sign the changes during his current term, regardless of his fate on Election Day.