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Loss of state Invest in Kids scholarship program forces closure of two Catholic Schools

Some Catholic schools face financial cliff due to loss of tuition support for families.

Chicago, (Jan. 18, 2024) – The pastors of St. Frances of Rome School in Cicero and St. Odilo School in Berwyn today announced that both schools will close in June of this year, bringing an end to a combined total of 196 years of Catholic education at their locations.  

The news comes just a few months after Illinois legislators ended the Invest in Kids scholarship program which provides full or partial scholarships to more than half the schools’ students--164 students in total.  Across the archdiocese, the state scholarship program provides more than $25 million dollars of aid to 5,000 low-income families to attend Catholic schools.

Rev. Radek Jaszczuk, C.Ss.R, pastor of St. Frances of Rome School, shared, “While we have navigated tight budgets in the past, the loss of the scholarship program has created an insurmountable gap.”  

Rev. Bartholomew Juncer, pastor of St. Odilo School, said, “More than half the students at our two schools rely on these scholarships. These are hard-working families who want a Catholic education for their children.”

The closures leave St. Leonard School in Berwyn and Our Lady of Charity School in Cicero as the last options for Catholic education in the affected communities. Families have been encouraged to consider one of these options for re-enrollment next year. Teachers and staff at the closing schools will be offered positions in other archdiocesan schools.  

“Catholic schools are doing well academically and interest among families is strong,” said Greg Richmond, superintendent of Catholic schools. “We believe the best way to keep Catholic education alive and thriving in Cicero and Berwyn is to consolidate our efforts on supporting one excellent school in each community. In this situation, trying to sustain four schools would have jeopardized all of them in the future. We are doing all that we can to keep our schools open, but the loss of the scholarship program will hurt. These may not be the last closures in our archdiocese.”

Richmond added, “Just two years ago, Catholic schools were praised for their willingness to provide in-person instruction during the pandemic. We preserved learning gains for the children we served. Our families, dedicated teachers and staff hope that elected officials will reconsider and extend the program.”