(The Center Square) – The fallout has begun in Illinois from the expired Invest in Kids school choice scholarship program as schools are announcing they will close.
The Archdiocese of Chicago announced this week the closing of two west suburban Catholic schools at the end of the school year. St. Frances of Rome in Cicero had 104 students on scholarship and St. Odilo in Berwyn had 60 students on scholarship.
Invest in Kids expired at the end of last year after Illinois legislators failed to advance an extension of the scholarship program, which provided full or partial scholarships for over 10,000 low-income students statewide. The bipartisan Invest in Kids Act passed in 2017 and provided privately funded scholarships to kids from low-income and working-class families to attend their best-fit private school. Donors to the program received a 75% Illinois income tax credit.
“Empower Illinois stands in solidarity with the parents, students, teachers, and communities of St. Frances of Rome and St. Odilo. Without this life-changing scholarship program, many of those families simply could not afford to attend the school, forcing its closure,” Empower Illinois Executive Director Bobby Sylvester said in a statement.
A compromise was proposed last fall to scale the program to $50 million a year, but Democrats, who control both chambers of the legislature, declined to take up the bill. Gov. J.B. Pritzker said last year that he would sign an extension if the bill made it to his desk.
“I think it is important to note that the tax credit scholarship program is providing means for struggling families to get out of poverty,” said Bob Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois.
Gilligan said he is hopeful the program will be renewed in the near future.
“Many lawmakers have indicated to us that there are conversations underway, so we are going to keep pursuing it because we have an obligation to do so on behalf of those families who are impacted by this,” said Gilligan.