Enrollment numbers haven’t been finalized yet, but about 18,000 children in the Archdiocese of Louisville’s 48 Catholic schools (39 elementary and nine high schools) are heading back to the classroom this week.
Among them are thousands of students who wouldn’t be in Catholic schools without the financial aid provided by the Catholic Education Foundation (CEF) and its supporters, including the 110 parishes of the Archdiocese of Louisville.
A new $10 million commitment from the archdiocese — the largest multi-year gift in the CEF’s history — aims to help keep the foundation on this track.
“This will be our seventh year in a row that every student that came to the foundation for help and qualified for an award received one,” said Richard A. Lechleiter, president of the foundation. “This board and this organization could not be more grateful to the archbishop and all his fellow priests. This gift is historic and will accrue to the benefit of the kids in the coming years.”
The gift from the archdiocese is being made in several different ways over the next five years. Last month the archdiocese made a $1 million donation to the CEF’s endowment as “a gift of stability,” said Dr. Brian Reynolds, chancellor and chief administrative officer of the Archdiocese of Louisville.
The remainder of the gift is a recommitment of funds it designated to the CEF in 2014, when the archdiocese announced the Catholic Elementary School Plan. Under that plan:
- The archdiocese gave $450,000 annually from the Catholic Services Appeal to provide high school tuition assistance. That amount has been increased to $500,000 for the next 5 years.
- Pastors committed one percent of parish income to tuition assistance for families that wish to attend Catholic schools. That commitment remains the same.
And the archdiocese will continue to sponsor the CEF’s major fundraising events — the Salute to the Game Luncheon and the Salute to Catholic School Alumni dinner.
Reynolds said there are four essential elements in the gift.
“We’re supporting families who need financial assistance. We’re not asking them to put windows in buildings and build schools. It’s tuition assistance for families from our parishes. And there’s assistance to high schools for tuition,” he said.
“Then there’s a gift of stability to the endowment from long-term investments and support of the events to support operational costs. Four essential elements,” Reynolds added.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, who is also the CEF board vice chair, said in a press release about the gift that the “Catholic Education Foundation’s growing impact on families and our community is resounding and I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of this great mission.”
“This new commitment by all my fellow priests speaks to our steadfast belief in Catholic education and its importance in shaping the lives of young students and their families,” he said. “We are deeply committed to making this life-changing experience accessible to everyone!”
In the 2014-2015 school year, before the plan was implemented, the CEF aided 1,480 elementary students and distributed about $1.7 million, Lechleiter said. By the next year, 2,400 children were aided and the CEF and its partners disbursed $5 million.
Last year, in the 2020-2021 school year, the CEF and partners aided 3,350 elementary students and disbursed $6.5 million in aid, he said.
Lechleiter estimates that the total amount of tuition assistance awarded this year will be an all-time high. The totals are still in flux, he said, as awards are still being made.
“For the seventh year in a row, the answer has been yes. It’s really amazing,” said Lechleiter, referring to a slogan the CEF adopted in 2014. “The answer is yes,” means that when a family asks if they can afford Catholic schools, the CEF works to make the answer, “yes,” by providing enough funding to make it affordable.
In light of this gift — made possible in large part by pastors who commit parish income — Lechleiter said he feels grateful to pastors, who are often the ones most able to connect families to the CEF.
“I’ve seen so many families that came to us through their pastors,” he said. “It’s such a good connection.”
Noting that he recently met with three new pastors, Lechleiter said he urged them:
“ ‘When you meet families with need, tell them two things: Go meet with the principal and tour the school and see if it’s a good fit. And then call the CEF for assistance.’
“They can spread that message better than we can. They are our ambassadors,” he said. “Their message is so important for our families.”