Invest in Kids Act Could Reduce Inequality and Reduce Crime in Big Cities in Illinois

A solid education and a satisfying job will go a long way in reducing crime in Illinois. State lawmakers already have a solution in place, but it needs a boost.

Illinois politicians are wondering how to stop violence in Chicago and elsewhere, but researchers have already shown the way: education and a good job are the best crime prevention strategies.

Violent crime is on the rise in the United States, with Cook County having recorded 1,000 homicides – the highest number since 1994 – as of one month of 2021. The Invest in Kids Act could be part of the long-term solution.

The Invest in Kids Act is a tax credit scholarship that allows students to receive the education of their choice. Recipients end up in better schools, achieve higher test scores, higher graduation rates, and better job prospects.

Originally passed in 2017, this law allows individuals and businesses to donate money for private scholarships and receive a tax credit of 75 cents for every $ 1 donated. Scholarships are awarded to families whose income does not exceed 300% of the federal poverty line: a family of four earning $ 78,600 or less would qualify, but the average is $ 38,403.

This summer, Governor JB Pritzker tried to cut the programtax credit from 75 cents to 40 cents. State lawmakers rejected its effort and instead extended it until 2023 after it was originally slated to die out in 2022.

Pritzker’s attempt to cut the program is flawed because research shows that a good education leads to better job prospects and less crime.

The Invest in Kids program serves the most disadvantaged youth, with nearly 50% of students participating in the program identifying as black or Hispanic. The scholarships give children with the lowest incomes access to the education of their choice, whether it is a private school or a personalized course.

The results speak volumes. Research by the Urban Institute shows tax credit scholarships increase high school graduation rates, college enrollments, and educational attainment of recipients – mostly children from low-income households . In Florida, for example, scholarship recipients were 12% more likely to go to college. Those who received a scholarship in Grades 8-10 were two percentage points more likely to graduate from college.

Eighty-nine percent of Chicago public school students are minorities predominantly black and hispanic and the public school system is failing them. Seventy-five percent of students in Chicago’s worst performing public elementary schools failed to meet state exam standards. Over 20% of these students scored in the lowest category in reading, meaning they had difficulty determining the main idea of ​​a persuasive essay or the plot of a short story.

And research has shown how education and employment improve health outcomes and reduce crime. Even before the pandemic, states with higher unemployment rates had higher crime rates both in terms of higher homicide rates and higher property crime rates, according to data from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program.

According to the most recently available data from the American Community Survey, only 26.3% of black Chicagoans had a college degree or more, compared to 78.2% of white Chicago residents before the pandemic. In Chicago, where the homicide rate is highest among black residents, a slight increase in academic results among black men would go a long way in improving lives, livelihoods, and reducing racial disparities in health as well. by reducing crime. This is because a higher level of education leads to greater participation in the labor market. And, stable employment reduces the incentive to commit crime by binding people together in networks of reciprocal social obligations.

If lawmakers are serious about reducing racial disparities and tackling crime in Illinois’ largest cities, they should prioritize the continued expansion and expansion of the Invest in Kids program.

Fortunately, lawmakers saved time by extending the Invest in Kids program for one year, but the scholarships will be gone by the end of 2023. Making the program permanent would not only be one of the most progressive achievements of the world. any Illinois legislature. a direct transfer of resources and hope to its inhabitants with the lowest incomes but also reduce crime in major cities in Illinois.

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