April 4, 2014

$5 million goal, incentives add up in Catholic education effort

By John Shaughnessy

As he prepares to lead an effort that hopes to raise $5 million to help children receive a Catholic education in the archdiocese, Bob McKinney offers an interesting perspective about the choice between Catholic schools and other schools.

After six years of attending St. Luke the Evangelist School in Indianapolis, McKinney asked his parents if he could switch to a larger public school in seventh grade. In the two years he attended public school, McKinney “enjoyed the experience,” but he chose to return to a Catholic school for his high school years.

“Having experienced both public and Catholic schools, I wanted to go back to a Catholic school because of the community and values that we shared,” McKinney says. “I appreciated the opportunity to have four years of religion—of diving deeper and challenging my faith a little bit—but it was really about community.”

That focus on community, values and faith has led McKinney and his wife, Jackie—both 1992 graduates of Cathedral High School in Indianapolis—to have their four daughters attend St. Simon the Apostle School in Indianapolis.

That combination has also led McKinney to serve as the chairperson of the development committee of the archdiocese’s annual Celebrating Catholic School Values event in the fall—a group that has set a goal of raising $5 million.

“One of the things my wife and I have been passionate about is helping kids attend Catholic schools,” he says. “Having our daughters in a Catholic school has been a real positive experience for them and us.

“Our oldest daughter feels that same connection my wife and I felt. You start to appreciate the friendships you have and how that becomes a part of your life. There’s a connection among those families. They appreciate your children almost as much as you do.”

McKinney also appreciates that there is “a platform in place” to help scholarship and fundraising efforts that benefit families who want their children to attend Catholic schools, and donors who desire to make that opportunity available while maximizing the tax benefits of their contributions.

Working with the archdiocese’s Office of Catholic Education and the Office of Stewardship and Development, McKinney is focused on the benefits of Indiana Tax Credit Scholarships and their connection to Indiana school vouchers.

A Tax Credit Scholarship of at least $500 per child, given for one year, allows an eligible student to receive the state school voucher the following year and for up to 12 years of Catholic education in a Catholic school—a potential of $60,000 in state voucher assistance, according to Mary McCoy, the archdiocese’s assistant superintendent for Catholic schools.

From a donor’s standpoint, there is also the appeal of a tax benefit from contributing to a scholarship. With a 50 percent state tax credit and, for example, a 35 percent federal deduction, a donor can give $10,000 toward scholarships for as little as $3,250, McCoy noted.

For those who pay taxes at a federal rate of 28 percent, and with a 50 percent state tax credit, a donor can give $10,000 toward scholarships for as little as $3,600, she said.

That double benefit—making Catholic education an option for all families and creating a substantial tax credit—is a point that McKinney will emphasize in five advance breakfast/lunch events around the archdiocese on May 1, 5, 7, 13 and 15. (Related: Area gatherings will discuss tax credit scholarship benefits)

As part of those programs, $200,000 has been donated to provide incentives for Catholic schools to bring potential donors to the events. (Related: Incentives offered to schools promoting donor contributions)

“This year, we’ve almost tripled the incentives—it was a total of $70,000 last year—to get people to show up at these breakfasts and lunches,” McKinney says.

The development committee noted that last year’s record amount of $3 million was essentially raised in 90 days, so the belief is that by starting the program earlier, this year’s $5 million goal is within reach.

The committee has also called upon the support of the Catholic schools in the archdiocese. School principals have been asked to nominate a team captain or “cheerleader” to rally the involvement of people from their parish communities at the five events.

In the 2013-14 school year, 2,070 students in Catholic schools in the archdiocese have received Tax Credit Scholarships, compared to 913 in the 2012-13 school year, according to the Office of Catholic Education. McCoy says the need is even greater.

“Tax Credit Scholarship needs reach well into the middle class, especially families with multiple children in our schools,” McCoy says. “We don’t believe we have discovered the entire need, and we’re helping and encouraging schools to discover the need.

“Tax Credit Scholarships will allow schools to serve many more students, including those already in our seats. Through the Celebrating Catholic School Values event, we can, as Catholics, have an abundance mentality—that we don’t just help those in our school, but also students in other schools. Our goal is $5 million this year as the need is apparent.”

McKinney believes that Catholics will respond to that need.

“A lot of us take for granted the things we have in our lives,” he says. “But if you take a look, there are a lot of people who would like to send their kids to Catholic schools, and they can’t.

“I try to keep things simple. There’s nothing better than a family who receives the education they’re getting and the community they are a part of. That’s where my heart is, and that’s why I’m involved.” †

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