Danielle Luna and her husband live in Chicago, Illinois with their three kids. Their children attended the local public school for the first few years of their education, but Danielle quickly realized it was not the best fit for her family.
“My oldest son attended a Chicago public school in a great neighborhood from Kindergarten to fourth grade. However, I started to notice some changes in him. He was having problems with his teacher and was begging to be taken out of school. We could not afford to send the kids to a private school, so I decided to pull all three kids out and homeschool them,” Danielle said. “After two years of homeschooling, they were doing very well academically, but were eager to get back into a classroom and be among their peers. I heard about Empower Illinois’ tax credit scholarship application on Facebook and thought why not try?”
She applied in January 2019 and all three of her children received scholarships, her oldest to Northridge Preparatory School and her two younger children to Pope Francis Global Academy. Danielle says, “Northridge is where all the neighbors send their kids and my oldest son absolutely excelled in his first year there, making the Dean’s List.” In 2020, Danielle’s two sons were able to receive scholarships to Northridge Prep, while her daughter did not receive a scholarship. “I moved my two younger children out of the local Catholic school because they were teaching a common core math curriculum, which was too confusing for my kids. We wanted our daughter to attend Willows Academy, and after she was not awarded a tax credit scholarship, I picked up more hours at work. We were barely able to scrape up the money for her tuition.”
Danielle’s three children are still waiting to receive tax credit scholarships for the 2021-2022 school year. “Unfortunately, I just lost my job and my husband’s work has been slow, so I do not know what we will do if the money does not come through. I will have to choose between sending them to public school or homeschooling them again. They will not be happy, and neither will we.”
“My son is starting high school next year and he will miss out on so many social and extracurricular opportunities if we homeschool him. He wants to try out for the wrestling and the track team, and I could see him becoming depressed if he is unable to do those things. On top of that, I do not know if I will be able to keep up as a teacher with a high school curriculum. The flip side is our local public school option, which is not in a safe area and is incredibly overcrowded. I am afraid my kids will get lost in the system. I am scared about all of that.”
When asked what she would tell a legislator about the Tax Credit Scholarship Program, Danielle says, “I would let them know this program is so vital to kids who come from lower income families. At a public school, I felt like my kids were just a number – like standing in line at a deli. At their private schools they get so much more one-on-one attention, and I feel as though their chances will increase to attend a good college and get a well-paying job. And hopefully they will be in a position in the future where they can afford to send their kids to the school of their choice. This education will stick with them for years. I never dreamed my kids could attend schools like this, and Empower Illinois made it possible.”
“Even if we do not receive scholarships this year, I know this program helps so many families like mine. It would be a real shame to cut this program. What is more important than our children’s future?”