‘These kids this year have to scramble’; thousands of private school students could lose scholarships halfway through academic year

‘Invest in Kids Act’ expires Dec. 31, 2023
Published: Oct. 25, 2023 at 6:31 PM CDT
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PEORIA (25News Now) - Nearly 10,000 private school students in Illinois could lose scholarship funding, leaving them without a method to pay for that often more expensive education.

Lawmakers returned to the Illinois capitol Tuesday to talk about a potential extension for the Invest in Kids Act.

“The last thing that we can allow to happen is something getting taken from us and these 86 kids this year now have to scramble and ask. ‘What are we going to do?’” said St. Philomena Catholic School Principal Jack Dippold.

To send students to private catholic schools in central Illinois is a hefty price.

It costs $5,400 per child at St. Mark’s Catholic School and more than $8,000 for Peoria Notre Dame and Central Catholic High School, per student each school year.

Despite costs, a lot of families in central Illinois choose private schools, including Maria Carroll, who now works for the school she sent her kids to.

“That’s a very personal thing. We just want people to be able to make the best choice for them, and this program allows for that,” said Carroll, Director of Advancement at St. Mark’s Catholic School.

10,000 kids who couldn’t afford to go to private schools received scholarships, thanks to the Invest in Kids Act, created in 2017.

Since it began, the program allows individuals who donate to Scholarship-Granting Organizations (SGOs) to get income tax credits at the end of the tax season.

The funds go to student scholarships.

Cassie Creswell, executive director of Illinois Families for Public Schools, is concerned that there’s no accountability for these schools.

“That’s a real issue. Are we really just paying families who would be in private schools anyway, even if they are lower income?” said Creswell.

“Some of them know that finances will get tight if their scholarship money is no longer there. So, it impacts them on a personal level,” said Peoria Notre Dame Principal Jacqueline Kelly.

Central Catholic High School President Sean Foster says 10% of his students receive these scholarships.

The Invest in Kids Act expires on Dec. 23, 2023, halfway through the school year.