SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) – Students, parents and school administrators gathered in Springfield Monday calling on lawmakers to save a scholarship program.

“I felt like I left kind of empty handed, and with more questions than there were answers,” Terece McCrary, a parent of two kids enrolled in private schools, said.

Both of her children have received scholarships through the Invest in Kids Scholarship Tax Credit Program. Under the program, people can get a 75% income tax credit when they donate money to nonprofits. Those dollars then go towards scholarships for lower income students attending private school.

“It does relieve some of the financial stress for me to be able to receive this scholarship and it provides an alternate education for both of my girls who are in Catholic schooling,” McCrary said.

Her oldest daughter, Takiyah McCrary, is a sophomore at Sacred Heart-Griffin. Now, she’s worried about what will happen next if they can’t rely on that scholarship.

“It’s helped me grow into myself more as a person and get more active and make more friends,” Takiyah McCrary said. “It’s just helped me come out of my shell and losing the scholarship would not be the best for me because I feel like I’ve really grown at Sacred Heart.” 

The program is set to expire by the end of this year. That means McCrary and about 9,500 other students in Illinois are at risk of losing the financial support.

“My concern would be that she actually wouldn’t be able to continue her education at SHG,” Terece McCrary said.

Now, it’s up to lawmakers to decide the future of the program. Families and school administrators are calling on the state to take action to continue the program.

“The students that we have at our school that are on the scholarship, many of them, as you heard here tonight from other families, would not be able to attend the school of their choice and the school that might be their best fit without the scholarship,” Jennifer Burke, the assistant principal at Blessed Sacrament School, said.

State Sen. Doris Turner (D-Springfield) spoke to families at the event in Springfield but would not commit to supporting or opposing continuing the program.

“I do appreciate the fact that she did show up and she did answer some questions, but not the real question that everybody here had in mind and it’s not just me,” Don Tracy, the chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, said. “I’ve talked to a lot of people afterwards and a lot of people were very disappointed in what happened tonight.”

WCIA reached out to Turner on this issue but she declined to comment. Democrats have said they would have time to revisit the issue. Meanwhile, House Republicans introduced a bill to make the program permanent.