My wife and I have been married for 25 years. We have five children – aged 19, 17, 14, 12, and nine. We were originally a homeschooling family, but when my wife went back to work, we decided St. Mary’s would be the best for several of our children. We both work in the public sector, so even with the financial aid that St. Mary’s was offering us, we were probably going to have to make some tough decisions. But then Empower Illinois and the scholarships came onto the scene.
We’ve been able to receive scholarships each of the years they’ve been available. We started out with four at St. Mary’s and now we have three there – the other two have gone to private high schools now. It’s been phenomenal. It has taken a great burden off our shoulders. It would not be possible to send all our children to the schools we would have liked them to attend without these scholarships.
The first year the scholarships were available, I remember there being a lot of confusion and uncertainty – how was it going to work, were we going to get the scholarships, those sorts of questions. Then we suddenly got the email that we were getting the scholarship. It was a combination of relief and elation. It was wonderful, and it continues to be wonderful every year. We feel that elation every year.
We have been very pleased with the education our children have gotten. The smaller class sizes help them focus and get the help they need in the classroom. It’s more individualized and we feel that’s important for our kids. The smaller classes also allow the teachers to keep an eye on what’s going on and be there to intervene if something isn’t going right. I think their school instills the qualities that you want to see in a citizen. They teach them to do what’s right even when nobody else is doing it. We’ve been very happy with how our children have developed in that environment and the character building the school makes possible. The faith component has been very important to us, too. That was a big draw for us, and it gave their education a sense of purpose we thought was missing in public schools.
Cutting the Tax Credit Scholarship Program would be detrimental to Illinois. It would hurt historically marginalized and lower-income communities the most. We’ve had the good fortune of seeing how the program has made our schools more diverse and that benefits everyone, and cutting it would set us back. This program is good for everyone that has a school aged child, even those in public school. It means one less student in a public school classroom, which frees up the teachers to focus more on their students and meet their needs. It’s a win for the public school students and it’s a win for the parents who want to send their students to private schools.
It’s been such a blessing not just for us, but for many other families at St. Mary’s and schools across Illinois. This program relies on the generosity of its donors. People and businesses from across Illinois don’t have to donate to get kids into better schools. But they do. It’s such a phenomenal program and I thank God every time I think about it. It’s given all of us the opportunity to send our kids where they need to be.