August 17, 2012

Catholic Education Outreach / Harry Plummer

Catholic schools back in action

This month, more than 23,000 students and 1,700 staff members are returning to the 58 elementary schools and 11 high schools of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, ready for a fantastic academic and formative school experience.

Academically, our schools will be integrating curriculum in increasingly innovative ways to enhance learning and improve student achievement.

They are also seeking to boost their already exemplary performance on ISTEP+ testing by increasing last year’s average passing rates of 91 percent in English/Language Arts versus public school’s 77 percent rate, and 88.7 percent in math versus public school’s 80.2 percent.

Formatively, schools are gearing up for many opportunities to celebrate God’s love for us in word and sacrament, especially animated by Pope Benedict XVI’s announcement of a Year of Faith beginning on Oct. 11.

Truly, our Catholic schools have been preparing a great feast this year. And we’re excited to add that Indiana’s educational choice legislation is helping us bring an ever-increasing number of students to the table.

So far this year, 1,926 students registered in our schools have been granted Indiana Choice Scholarships—a.k.a. “vouchers”—compared to just over 1,000 students last year. We are also making a concentrated effort to bring students into our kindergartens and first grades on the Indiana tax credit scholarships through the Educational CHOICE Charitable Trust, our scholarship granting organization (SGO).

The voucher law allows for students who have entered kindergarten or first grade on a tax credit scholarship through an SGO to continue in the private school on a voucher for as long as the family remains financially eligible. That’s potentially around $60,000 in tuition assistance over 12 years of education. One of the more creative ways we are getting the word out about these tax scholarships is through sponsoring breakfast and lunch events across the archdiocese.

At these events, donors learn that they can receive a tax credit for 50 percent of their donation up to the full amount of their Indiana tax liability—and they can still claim their federal deduction. Donors are responding generously, with more than $270,000 already on its way to designated Catholic schools in the form of SGO scholarships.

These same events were also designed to promote our 17th annual Celebrating Catholic School Values: Scholarship and Career Achievement Awards event to be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on Oct. 30 at the Crowne Plaza Grand Hall at Union Station in Indianapolis. This is our annual corporate friend-raising and fundraising event for Catholic schools. Individual tickets may be purchased. Please contact the archdiocesan Office of Stewardship and Development for more information at 317-236-1568 or 800-382-9836 ext. 1568.

We will honor three people this year at the Celebrating Catholic School Values event. Receiving our Career Achievement Award will be Providence Sister James Michael Kesterson, retired principal of St. Jude School in Indianapolis, and Dennis Sponsel, chairman of our Mother Theodore Catholic Academies board of directors.

Fred Klipsch, president of School Choice Indiana and the Educational CHOICE Charitable Trust, will receive the Community Service Award for his strong advocacy for and leadership of the movement for educational choice in Indiana. These awards express our gratitude for the outstanding example and spirit of service to Catholic school education that these people exemplify.

Please remember that keeping our Catholic schools affordable and aggressive in the pursuit of ever higher standards of excellence requires courage, wisdom and financial support. Accordingly, I would like to ask all our readers to pray that God provides us with an abundance of each so we can most fully and faithfully advance this exciting educational apostolate for his greater glory.

(Harry Plummer is executive director of the archdiocese’s office of Catholic education and faith formation.)

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