FILE - Gov. J.B. Pritzker, May 15, 2019

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker

Illinois lawmakers are feeling pressure from parents whose children benefit from the state’s private school scholarship program.

As part of the Save my Scholarship campaign, dozens of parents have come together to roam the halls of the state’s capitol building in hopes of convincing lawmakers to oppose Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s plan to phase out the Invest in Kids program. They’re asking lawmakers to let the program live out the entirety of its five-year pilot program instead of allowing the governor to halve its donation cap every year over the next three and shut out anyone who isn’t already in the program from applying.

“The Governor is proposing to phase out the program over the next three years so that the state can direct its limited revenues to funding its commitments to public schools first,” Pritzker’s proposed budget reads.

Lilia Guevara’s 13-year-old son is going to San Miguel school in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood. She said her visit with her representative, Democrat Theresa Mah didn’t go well but her Senator, Tony Munoz, was very receptive.

“He said he totally supported the cause,” she said. “I was grateful to be able to meet him.”

Empower Illinois director Anthony Holter said parents are a potent voice in the fight to keep the program.

“I can think of no more important or powerful voice for the importance of this program than that of a parent whose child received a scholarship,” he said.

Holter said the parents will be in the Capitol until the end of session.

Opponents of the program have said the tax credits given to donors is revenue that could have potentially gone to public schools. The loss of public school students to private schools also represents a loss in government funding that’s tied to total students attending the districts.

In his budget proposal, Pritzker estimated cutting the program in half would bring $6 million into the state’s coffers in the fiscal year beginning in July.

Staff Writer

Cole Lauterbach reports on Illinois government and statewide issues for The Center Square. He has produced radio shows for stations in Bloomington/Normal and Peoria, and created award-winning programs for Comcast SportsNet Chicago.