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Peoria Public Schools Receives $860K In 'Restore, Reinvest, Renew' Grant

Desmoulin-Kherat speaks
Joe Deacon
/
WCBU
Peoria Public Schools Superintendent Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat, center, speaks about the District's R3 grant award during a news conference Tuesday at Trewyn K-8 School in Peoria.

A state grant of almost $860,000 will allow Peoria Public Schools District 150 to help students and families from communities adversely impacted by the war on drugs.

The funding comes from the “Restore, Reinvest, Renew” program, commonly called R3, which gets 25% of the tax revenue from Illinois’ legalization of adult-use cannabis. School officials touted the grant during a news conference Tuesday at Trewyn K-8 School on the city’s south side.

“What an opportunity for individuals who are in dire need, and can benefit from some support and guidance for success and actually becoming contributing members of society,” said PPS Superintendent Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat. “We are here in one of the most distressed communities in the state and in the nation, 61605 (ZIP code) at Trewyn Primary School, and this community, like many other communities are, impacted by the horrors of violence, have bolstered by concentration of disinvestments identified by rates of gun injuries, child poverty, unemployment, and incarceration rates.

“The list goes on and on and on. Life’s inequities, hardship and suffering are so vast and wide for many, many, many of our students and families.”

State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth said one of her priorities in working on the 700-page bill to legalize cannabis was including a program that would enable tax dollars to benefit disadvantaged neighborhoods.

“I felt that it was critical that if we were going to be legalizing a product that had been used for the last 80 years to penalize largely Black and brown people, it was incredibly important that we took some of the resources of the sale of this product and begin to reinvest it in repairing those same communities that have been torn down by the war on drugs,” said Gordon-Booth.

“It's only right that we be investing almost a $1 million in this year alone to help repair harm within this ZIP code for families and community members across the city.”

The grant of $858,669 will help at least 200 clients, students and adults meet their needs by providing legal support, economic development opportunities, assistance with community re-entry after incarceration, violence prevention and youth development.

District 150 social/emotional director Derrick Booth said the district will work with various community partners to help the program reach the people who need it.

“One of the things that we realize is that, along with continuing the strategies and interventions and the supports that we put in place inside the school buildings, those strategies and interventions also need to be put in place inside and out,” said Gordon-Booth. “A lot goes on outside of the school buildings that our students and our community are exposed to or deal with that have a negative impact on their success inside the school building.

“So it's efforts like these that R3 gives us for an opportunity to put more interventions in place, not only inside the school building, but outside the school building. And we realize we can't do this alone as a school district; it's going to take all of the community partners that are here today.”

Community partners joining PPS in helping the community through the R3 grant program include the Peoria County Sheriff's STAR program, HULT Center for Healthy Living, Chestnut Health Services, and Family Core.

“What we plan to do is continue what we've already started: addressing these major predictable barriers to re-entry, which are housing, employment, education,” said Sheriff Brian Asbell.  “It's these things that we're going to continue to work on and with the school.

“I've said so many times the No. 1 influencer of public safety is employment, and to have gainful employment, we have to have a strong education system. So it's trying to link all these pieces together to give our community members the best chance to have a successful and prosperous life.”

Gordon-Booth said the cannabis legalization produced more tax revenue in the first year than was anticipated, and that could lead to larger amounts of grant money being available in years to come.

“We expected that there would be about $20-22 million to be able to distribute statewide through the R3 funds,” she said. “Actually that dollar amount was about $31 million. Going into this next funding year, there could be upwards of $50- to even $65 million of funding for R3 moving forward. So again, we're so excited about this collaboration. We know that lives are going to be changed because of the work that all of these great partners are going to do.”

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Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.