Jennifer Farrand

Jennifer Farrand

Jennifer Farrand is principal of Chicago’s Academy of St. Benedict The African, a Catholic school serving the West Englewood community since 1901. Invest in Kids scholarships benefit hundreds of low-income families at her school, but that ends this year unless state lawmakers act.

“Even going back to that first year when the program started, the tax credit has been so important to the lives of our families. For many in our community, having the opportunity to choose the best fit school for their child was out of reach due to their circumstances. The tax credit scholarship made it possible for over 400 of our families to choose a school that best fit their child.”

“We know that education is the best route out of systemic poverty. There’s a lot of systemic poverty in the area, in the neighborhood and systems are set up for our kids not to be as successful. We’ve created opportunities in this building. All of my kids are minority and want to be successful. They deserve that opportunity the same way any other child in America does.”

“It becomes life-changing for the families when they’re able to choose which school fits best for their child because it allows them the flexibility that people who have our privilege can do without having to worry about it. I was always fortunate I could put my kids in whatever school I thought was best for them. But that’s not true for everybody, and everyone should have that opportunity.”

“I have 97 kids who are benefiting from the scholarship this year. That also frees up money to give financial aid to other students as well. So, while the program directly influences 97 kids, it indirectly influences all the students because more resources are available for other families who may not qualify or didn’t get it on time. If you take preschool out, the other 240 kids I have would also likely be eligible.”

“I’m a firm believer that a child’s ZIP code should not determine their outcome. And that the tax credit scholarship helps level the playing field and provide equity for children, particularly children of color to get access to the best education for them.”

“I have the mentality that we’ll find a way to figure it out, even if the program isn’t extended. But it will mean we’ll need different support from a lot of our donors so we can keep the families with us. I am so hopeful that we can get some more donations in before Dec. 31 when the program is set to sunset.”

“Ultimately, the goal is going to be to try to keep families with us because I don’t want to turn them away after they’ve been here. How unfair is it to those kids to say, ‘Yes, this has been your school for five years because we’ve had a tax credit for you. But you don’t have it anymore. Now head on back to a school that doesn’t serve your needs the way we can.’ Because that’s essentially what’s going to happen if that vote comes and fails. Kids lose.”

“I think Father Pfleger said it better than anyone: ‘A vote against this is a vote against children who are growing up in low-income families. It’s just another way to keep those kids down.’”

“A couple of weeks ago, we did an advocacy training for our families so that they would understand a little bit about what the ‘against’ group is saying, like that it’s taking money from CPS. We know CPS funding has gone up since the program’s in place, so that’s not true.”

“That got a bunch of my families excited to talk about it. They were asking, ‘Why is anybody saying our kids don’t deserve to go where we think is best for them?’ There’s not a child in my building that doesn’t have financial aid, because it’s the nature of the communities we serve.”

“Still, over 85% of my eighth graders matriculate to selective enrollment, top Catholic schools, or top charter network schools when they leave us. So, we try to provide the best outcomes for all our students.”

“It’s not about my budget. It’s about the kids. It’s only for the kids that we’re doing this.”

“I think people see this legislation and just think it’s another law. It’s just one piece of the budget and people don’t put a personal face to it. I have over 400 kids who I can tell you about as well as the impact this program has had on their lives and will have on their educational outcomes.”

“Just remember: it’s the Invest in Kids Act, and it’s about the kids.”

Jennifer Farrand
Principal, Academy of St. Benedict The African
Chicago, Illinois

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