Illinois’ privately funded school choice program set to end after legislature

With the end of the fall veto session, Illinois’ Invest in Kids school choice scholarship program benefiting around 9,600 students will come to a close.


Despite families for months lobbying to extend the privately funded program beyond the Dec. 31 sunset, legislators didn’t advance any such measure. Republicans were critical of Democrats they say caved to the teachers’ unions who opposed the program. But, before adjourning, state Rep. Kevin Olickal, D-Skokie, said he’ll continue to fight.


“There’s no guarantee that they’ll be able to stay at the school that they may have grown to love and build community within and may be thrown into a harmful transition,” Olickal said.


After the House adjourned, solidifying the program wouldn’t be extended, House Minority Leader Tony McCombie, R-Savanna, said they will come back next year to work at reauthorizing the program.


“I think there is some things that we can do to make it a better program, a more effective program, that could serve more students as well,” McCombie said.


In other education action, the legislature advanced maps for elected Chicago Public School districts after the House and Senate agreed on ethics provisions for a new elected school board.


Among additional measures both chambers passed was a bill impacting the retirement of retired Chicago police officers. State Rep. Justin Slaughter, D-Chicago, sponsored the measure and told state Rep. Dan Caulkins, R-Decatur, Chicago taxpayers will be on the hook for around $70 million extra per year.


“Very good. I just want to make sure that my taxpayers are not going to be on the hook to fund the pension plan for [Chicago Police Department],” said Caulkins.


“They will not be on the hood,” Slaughter said.


“Perfect,” Caulkins said.


Separately, questions persist about the Jan. 1 deadline for firearms owners to register guns the legislature banned earlier this year. State Rep. Brad Halbrook, R-Shelbyville, said legislators are heading home with questions mounting.


“Are we going to have thousands of people with revoked [Firearm Owners ID] cards next spring for simply exercising their constitutional rights to bear arms,” Halbrook asked.


Legislators are off until Jan. 16.

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