By Marnie McAllister, Record Assistant Editor
The Archdiocese of Louisville’s new Catholic Elementary School Plan — expected to double the amount of tuition aid available — will require new sources of funding for Catholic schools and their students.
The new funds will come from the Archdiocese of Louisville’s 111 parishes, the archdiocese itself and from the Catholic Education Foundation (CEF). In coming years, the archdiocese hopes to work with the business community to generate donations, too.
Parishes have committed to contributing one percent of their income each year to fund a new archdiocesan tuition voucher program, set to begin with the 2015-2016 school year. Their contributions are expected to total about $1.3 million the first year.
The fund will primarily provide tuition assistance to Catholic students. A portion, 10 percent, also will go to the CEF.
Dr. Brian Reynolds, chancellor and chief administrative officer of the archdiocese, said that during the past two years — as the school plan was developed — the archdiocese worked with parishes to develop this funding model.
“Our parishes felt strongly that we need to preserve Catholic schools as a priority. That was a value held even by parishes that don’t sponsor a school,” Reynolds said. “It was commonly held that if a child would like to attend a Catholic school, we’d like to help them.”
Reynolds said several approaches were considered, “but the strongest support was for a contribution model, funding families who wish to go to these schools.”
The archdiocese and individual schools also will provide tuition discounts to low income families of any and all faith traditions.
The CEF also figures prominently in the new plan. As has been reported previously, the foundation plans to increase its already record-breaking tuition assistance funds. Next year, the foundation intends to provide $2 million in aid, up 20 percent from this year’s record.
Richard A. Lechleiter, president of the foundation, said this aid makes sense from a number of viewpoints.
As a Catholic — educated in Catholic schools — he wants to see barriers to Catholic education removed for all children.
He also thinks it makes sense for the business community.
Lechleiter, the retired executive vice president and CFO of Kindred Healthcare, Inc., said during a press conference at the chancery Nov. 6 that local businesses need employees educated in Catholic schools.
“They are looking to us on the Catholic education front to provide more students, not less, who are qualified … and who would make good employees,” he said.
Lechleiter expressed his support of state tax credits for businesses that contribute to education in Kentucky.
“Twenty-three states have done it,” he said. “We’ve heard from hundreds of businesses that have said, ‘Yes, we want to be part of that.’ But we need the state legislature to write a model for that.”
The Catholic Conference of Kentucky (CCK) is working on behalf of the state’s four dioceses to promote such legislation in the Kentucky General Assembly. The CCK has supported similar legislation in past years.
During the 2014 General Assembly, bipartisan proposals sought to allow tax credits for businesses that supported non-public education or to a fund for public schools.
Legislation has not yet been introduced for the 2015 General Assembly.
Andrew Vandiver, the CCK’s new associate director, will be working on the proposal for 2015 along with other groups interested in this legislation. But he said the CCK doesn’t expect much action on the plan in 2015.
“I don’t anticipate a big push for 2015, “ he said. “We’re really looking to building support for 2016, since that’s a budget year.
“We’re looking for legislators who are on the fence and talking to parents,” he said. “There’s definitely bipartisan support for it. We need to get some parents to call some of these representatives on the fence to get support behind it.”
Vandiver urged parents to follow the CCK on Twitter and Facebook as a first step. Those who’d like to get involved directly are encouraged to contact Vandiver at 502-875-4345 or firstname.lastname@example.org.