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Central Illinois school concerned about scholarship program cut from state budget

One Central Illinois high school is worried about a program cut from this year’s state budget.

“Looking at the list of students that are coming here, I think that there’d be a large population that just wouldn’t be able to do it,” Anthony Corapi, the chief operating officer for the High School of Saint Thomas Moore, said. “This wouldn’t be reachable for them.” 

Dozens of students at the high school, located in Champaign, rely on the Invest in Kids Scholarship Tax Credit Program. 

Under the program, people can donate money to nonprofits and get a 75 percent income tax credit. That money goes towards scholarships meant to help lower income students afford private school.

“48 students last year were fully funded,” Corapi said. “Our student body is a little over 200. So that’s well over a quarter of my students that are receiving some sort of aid to come here.”

But money for the program was not included in this year’s budget leaving it set to sunset by the end of this year.

“For the families it definitely impacts them because they chose this school specifically because it’s the best fit for their family and their student,” Corapi said. “And they’re concerned, I mean, really concerned.”

Many Republican lawmakers were angered that Invest in Kids was cut, warning of the impact it could have on families.

“Parents this summer are going to have to decide are they going to send their kids to a school that maybe they can afford for half a year and then get thrown out on their rear,” State Sen. Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet) said during the Senate floor debate on the budget in May. “Are they going to put their faith in the Illinois General assembly to finally figure it out?” 

Governor J.B. Pritzker said it’s now up to lawmakers to decide the fate of the program when they return for veto session in the coming months.

“It is certainly possible that between now and the veto session in October and November, that there will be decisions that get made that we’ll have the General Assembly passing that and sending it to my desk,” Pritzker said while visiting a school in Champaign Wednesday. “I have said all along that if that’s what happens, I will sign that bill.”

Corapi said students who attend the school would still get help for the upcoming school year through the program. But if Invest in Kids does expire, they wouldn’t get help beyond that year.

The Illinois Education Association opposes the program saying the state should focus on investing more money into funding public schools.

“We are so grateful our lawmakers chose to put education first and not extend Illinois’ massive voucher program, the Invest in Kids Act,” Kathi Griffin, the president of the IEA, said in a statement to WCIA. “More than 80 percent of Illinois’ public schools are underfunded. We should be concentrating on helping all students by fully funding those schools, not siphoning $75 million dollars into a private school voucher scheme. We are looking forward to making sure the Invest in Kids Act officially sunsets this year.”

Source: WCIA