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In 2021, Governor Pritzker proposed reducing the tax credit percentage to donors who support low-income students from 75% to 40%. The Governor has lumped the Invest in Kids Act into his plans to eliminate “corporate loopholes.”
Governor Pritzker’s planned to make devastating cuts to Illinois’ Tax Credit Scholarship Program–that serves low-income and working-class families–in addition to withholding required public education funding increases, is harmful to students across Illinois. Making these cuts to the Tax Credit Scholarship Program does not help support those most in need, and scholarships for kids are not “corporate loopholes.”
During this challenging time, kids need more quality education options, not fewer. And while Illinois’ financial challenges are significant, Empower Illinois and Tax Credit Scholarship Community believed the State should not balance its budget on the backs of children from low-income and working-class communities or the schools that serve them so well.
Families, schools, donors, and students wrote over 10,000 letters to their elected officials imploring them to protect this vital program. The Illinois Capitol remained closed to the public due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but this did not stop dedicated teachers, students, and parents. Advocates lined up outside the building throughout May to talk with legislators, even just for a moment, as they walked to the Capitol. By the conclusion of legislative session, the Illinois General Assembly rejected the proposed program cuts and granted the program an additional year.
The Future of Illinois Campaign (2020-2021)
In seeking to develop a future policy framework, Empower Illinois commissioned a landscape analysis of workforce education pathways available to students in Illinois and those quality models that exist in other states around the country, knowing that not every student will pursue a college-driven pathway. The more accessible and flexible educational pathways are for students, the more likely they are to take advantage of those opportunities and achieve prosperity.
To tackle this problem, Empower Illinois partnered with a broad coalition of nonpublic schools, trade labor unions, businesses, and community organizations who are committed to ensuring students have more education and career pathways that are not limited based on income. Our partners in the Future of Illinois initiative include the Operating Engineers Local 150, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, among others.
In spring 2021, the Future of Illinois coalition fought for and succeeded in passing legislation to allow for a private skilled trade school that could participate in the Invest in Kids Tax Credit Scholarship Program.
#SaveMyScholarship Campaign (2019)
In 2018, tax credit scholarship opponents announced a 50 percent cut and premature phase out of the Invest in Kids Act—threatening more than 46,000 kids in line for a scholarship. This jeopardized all 7,178 scholarship recipients at the time, and immediately denied at least 742 current recipients their chance to receive the education they deserve. By May 2019, the Invest in Kids Act was the only proposed cut in the entire multibillion-dollar state budget. Empower Illinois, under the #SaveMyScholarship campaign, led a grassroots coalition to fight against these threats–and we won. Our staff empowered, recruited, and trained a coalition of school leaders and community advocates to maintain a consistent presence in the Capitol through daily trips. Thanks to the efforts of many students, parents, grandparents, foster parents, teachers, school leaders, and community leaders who made the trip to Springfield to show their support for the program and its preservation, our voices were heard, and we won the fight to save the program. Empower Illinois was recognized for its work on the #SaveMyScholarship campaign with a national nomination for the Policy Innovation in Education “Eddie Award” for Best Defense.
Illinois Kids Campaign (2017)
Empower Illinois joined with dozens of education, community, and labor organizations in 2017 to expand quality education options to all Illinois kids, regardless of ZIP Code or family income. Working together with educators, policy makers, parents, donors, and students, the Illinois Kids Coalition succeeded in passing the Invest in Kids Act, which created Illinois’ Tax Credit Scholarship Program.