Another parochial school forced to close without Invest in Kids

Another parochial school forced to close without Invest in Kids

St. Bede School in Ingleside will shut its doors without the support from Invest in Kids scholarships. Even a $500K fundraising effort failed to save the school.

St. Bede School in Ingleside will be forced to close after Illinois lawmakers refused to extend Invest in Kids scholarships for low-income students.

The news came as another parochial school, St. Frances of Rome in Cicero, was saved by an anonymous donor. The school was to close after the low-income scholarship program was killed.

Low enrollment spurred by the Invest in Kids scholarship program expiring will force St. Bede to close. Only 119 students were registered for the fall, short of the 182 goal.

“The loss of the state Invest in Kids scholarship program created a feeling of uncertainty for the school’s future that could not be overcome – even by an incredible fundraising effort,” the Rev. George Koeune said.

More than 9,600 scholarships for low-income students around the state won’t be available  at schools such as St. Bede for the upcoming school year. State lawmakers could have prevented it by extending Invest in Kids scholarships and the tax credits that funded them, but the program was successfully targeted by teachers unions – despite union leaders sending their own children to private schools.

A 17-year-old alumna tried to save her old school by starting a GoFundMe campaign that raised more than $500,000, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the enrollment shortfall. That money will either be refunded to donors or used for scholarships at other schools.

Invest in Kids saved school resources for public schools, who now need to budget for additional students in Ingleside and around Illinois. On net, the state saved nearly $12,100 per student who received an Invest in Kids scholarship because private schools are run more efficiently and the public schools still received tax revenue for the student without the obligation to educate the child. St. Frances of Rome and three other parochial schools previously announced they were closing because the scholarship program was ending.

The average household income for Invest in Kids families was $45,046 according to 2022 data from Empower Illinois, the largest scholarship-granting organization. It was Illinois’ only school choice program, meaning Illinois has rolled back choices for low-income parents as the rest of the nation is expanding them.

It’s never late for Illinois lawmakers, many of whom send their kids to private schools, to resurrect a lifeline for low-income students.

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