This year Illinois increased the Parent Mentor Program grant to $3.5 million – a $1 million increase from 2019. With this funding, 30 more schools receive support from parent mentors in primarily Black and Brown communities where funding has largely been divested.
SWOP organizer Maggie Perales runs finances for the entire statewide parent mentor program. Perales emphasized the impact of this funding increase on their work this year: 30 more schools, each with 8 more parent mentors, each supporting around 23 students. This means somewhere around 5,000 more students are receiving academic and social support from parent mentors this year.
Parent mentors also develop their leadership skills and build new relationships in their neighborhoods. The parent mentor program sometimes also acts as a segway into other opportunities for work and education. Perales described watching parent mentors gain deeper insights into the needs of their schools and pursuing work as social workers and teacher assistants. School administrators also see how parent mentors support their schools and sometimes hire parent mentors for other jobs.
Currently, the statewide parent mentor program partners with 31 community-based organizations in 146 schools. By the end of 2020, Perales imagines parent mentors will be in 5 more schools.
In Springfield, SWOP is organizing to advocate for increased funding again next year. “We have a good relationship [with the state]… They see the value of the program,” said Perales.
For 2020-2021, we’re asking for $4.75 million. This funding boost would allow the expansion of the parent mentor program into another 30 schools.
In addition to state funding, community based organizations get additional funding from foundations, organizations, and the schools in which they work. This allows the parent mentor program to fill in funding gaps. For example, some schools want more than the 8 parent mentors funded by the state grant.