'I was in tears': Families react to Catholic school closures after 'Invest in Kids' scholarship ends

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Saturday, January 20, 2024
'I was in tears': Families react as Catholic schools forced to close
St. Frances of Rome School in Cicero and St. Odilo School in Berwyn will close due to state funding ending for the "Invest in Kids" scholarship.

BERWYN, Ill. (WLS) -- Two catholic schools in the Chicago area are closing because of the end of a tax break that funded scholarships, the Chicago Archdiocese said.

The pastors at Saint Frances of Rome School in Cicero and Saint Odilo School in Berwyn announced Thursday both schools will shut down at the end of the school year.

The news took Christine Clark, the mother of a St. Frances of Rome Catholic School student, by surprise late Thursday.

"I read the email at work at 3:30," Clark said. "I was in tears. My daughter was ballistic. She was crying her heart out."

Clark said she was the among the parents notified by the Archdiocese of Chicago that the two schools will close in June.

Greg Richmond, the Superintendent of Schools for the Archdiocese of Chicago, issued a statement, saying in part, "We are doing all that we can to keep our schools open, but the loss of the scholarship program will hurt."

The shuttered "Invest in Kids" scholarship program was available for private and parochial schools. Individuals or corporations could have gotten a 75% tax credit for donating to the program.

"Black, brown alike, we are all getting this resource," said Fr. Brendan Curran with Resurrection Project, Education Advocacy. "We need to get back to the table. We can't have more tragic stories like Saint Frances of Rome. Let's get it done. Let's get this program back.

Following criticism of the tax credit and concern about funding public education, the tax credit ended in 2023, and there are no plans in the legislature to revive it.

"When you close a school, you are not only impacting the education of the kids, but you are impacted the community," said Bobby Sylvester ,Executive Director Community & Government Affairs of Empower Illinois.

The superintendent said half of the students at the two schools received the scholarships.

As school let out for the weekend, Illinois Senate President Don Harmon told ABC7 they continue to be interested in exploring how best to support and invest in the education of children throughout the state.