Susan Miller, the superintendent of schools in the Diocese of Peoria, told CNA that the diocese was “extremely disappointed” in the state Legislature’s decision to end the program.
“For the last five years, this program has allowed underserved families an opportunity to choose a Catholic education as the best option for their child,” Miller said.
“Welcoming those families has made our students, our teachers, and our school communities better in every way.”
“The elimination of the program will have a detrimental effect on the recipient students, their families, and all of our families,” she said.
Miller said that at present it was “too early” for the Peoria Diocese to “make any decisions regarding any of our schools for the next school year.”
“Every year about this time, we evaluate the viability of our schools based on several factors, including cost, staffing, and enrollment,” she said.
In at least one case a school has managed to bolster itself with privately raised funds. High school senior Susan Lutzke raised well over $400,000 for St. Bede School in Ingleside in the Archdiocese of Chicago after it was facing closure due to lack of funds.
Lutzke’s mother, Tina, told CNA that the Invest in Kids scholarship “was a huge help” to the school. “And that program expired at the end of , and it has not been renewed yet,” she said, leaving the school unable to “plan for our operating expenses for next year.”
The school “is hard at work on a plan for future, long-term sustainability and to show that we have the enrollment to support the decision to open our doors in the fall of 2024,” the fundraising organizers said earlier this month. Chicago archbishop Cardinal Blase Cupich will ultimately rule next month on whether or not the school will remain open.
Other institutions have not been so fortunate. Notre Dame Academy in downstate Belleville indicated in a Facebook post earlier this month that the end of the scholarship program was the nail in the coffin for the school after years of struggle.
The school in announcing its closure quoted Psalm 27 in writing: “I believe I shall see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living. / Wait for the Lord, take courage; be stouthearted, wait for the Lord!”
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“While this announcement is certainly not the outcome any of us has worked for or wanted, even amid our sadness, we have plenty of reason to be grateful,” the school said.
In November, Cupich said in the archdiocesan newspaper that the state Legislature “abandoned nearly 10,000 children attending Catholic and other nonpublic schools” when it allowed the scholarship to expire.
“One of the most important decisions parents make for their children is where they are going to send their children to school,” the archbishop said. “Making that decision should not be denied to families in need.”