CEF says ‘yes’ to record number of elementary students

Fourth graders Charlotte Effinger, left, and Mary Beth Wilson used a laptop during class Sept. 12 at St. Margaret Mary School. (Record Photo by Kayla Bennett)

The Catholic Education Foundation has stayed true to its slogan — “The Answer is Yes!” — for the eighth straight year, providing financial assistance to more elementary school students than ever before.

The CEF and the Archdiocese of Louisville announced Sept. 15 that the foundation said “yes” to 3,600 students for the 2022-2023 school year, which is up from last year’s number of 3,400 students. Additionally, tuition assistance disbursement rose to $7.7 million.

The record-breaking funding was provided by CEF contributing $4.1 million; parishes and schools contributing $2.1 million; and the archdiocese, which includes Community Catholic Center, contributing $1.5 million.

“Thanks to the incredible generosity of our donors and the unwavering support of our funding partners, we provided tuition assistance to every single family who demonstrated financial need — for the eighth year in a row!” CEF president Richard Lechleiter said in a news release.

For St. Margaret Mary School, the 2022-2023 school year is the first that tuition has been collected. Which means it’s also the first year St. Margaret Mary families have applied for aid from the Catholic Education Foundation.

Principal Wendy Sims said it’s “worked out great” so far.

St. Margaret Mary School first grader Isaac Pimentel, center, wrote in a workbook on the morning of Sept. 12. (Record Photo by Kayla Bennett)

Lechleiter said the CEF participated in meetings last year with parents to discuss the shift from a stewardship-funded school to tuition. The CEF awarded aid to all 95 families that applied for it, providing tuition assistance to 142 St. Margaret Mary students this year.

“We’re really God blessed to do it,” Lechleiter said during a phone interview.

Overall, “we’re helping 200 more kids this year and that translates into 150 families,” he said. “The amount of aggregate funding is 10 percent higher. … It helps fill that gap for families.”

He noted that some families have a fear that if they receive an award one year they won’t be able to receive one the next. For the past eight years, that hasn’t been a problem, he said.

Adam Shaheen, a kindergartener at St. Margaret Mary School, raised his hand during class Sept. 12. (Record Photo by Kayla Bennett)

“We continue to accompany all of our families for the last eight years in a row,” he said. “Our donors are incredible for helping us to do that.”

Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre, who serves as the Foundation Board Vice Chair, said in the news release that he is “deeply thankful that we can come together to create so much hope for so many families.”

“God has blessed our families, our schools and this community. Please join me in giving thanks to the Lord that a record number of families can have access to this life-changing opportunity called Catholic education,” said Archbishop Fabre.

Lechleiter added, for the foundation, “We have to make sure that we’re working hard enough so that families can continue in a Catholic school. By the grace of God we’ve been able to do that.”

To learn more about the CEF, visit www.ceflou.org/.

Fourth graders at St. Margaret Mary School listened to instructions from their teacher on the morning of Sept. 12. (Record Photo by Kayla Bennett)

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