One Chance Illinois President Myles Mendoza is still rejoicing over his children's education advocacy group’s successful fight to save the state’s tax credit scholarship (TCS) program from the chopping block in Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s new 2019 state spending plan.
The group's initiative, Empower Illinois, drew enough statewide support that the governor backpedaled on his original intention of cutting the program that provides thousands of underprivileged children with non-public school scholarships.
“Faced with the threat of an attempt to phase out the tax credit scholarship program, Empower Illinois, in conjunction with our allies at the Catholic Conference, Agudath Israel, and statewide Lutheran, Muslim and secular school leaders, together led an even larger coalition of parents, grandparents, foster parents, educators, donors, private trade unions and, most importantly — scholarship recipients to fight back against an effort to end the TCS program — and they won,” Mendoza said in a press release.
None of it was easy. Over the last four weeks, One Chance Illinois staffers recruited, trained and empowered concerned volunteers they regularly transported to Springfield’s State Capitol Building on how to best make their voices heard. On its website, One Chance bills itself as an organization that “seeks to change the education policy conversation” by empowering parents “to choose the best school for their child.”
While in Springfield, wearing blue “Save My Scholarship” t-shirts, volunteers from every legislative district in the state roamed the Capitol Building on a daily basis, ultimately coming face-to-face with at least 120 lawmakers to share their story. In addition, staffers implemented a nonstop telephone campaign that eventually made contact with at least 400 schools and the parents of more than 42,000 students, urging all of them to reach out to their legislators about saving the TCS program.
When all was said and done and TCS was safe, Mendoza again felt compelled to salute all the volunteers he feels made the biggest difference.
“None of this would be possible without your support—so please pat yourself on the back—you all are the real champions,” he added in the release.