Knowledge Center

Banking on KC – Vince Anch and Libby Knox of The Catholic Education Foundation


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Kelly Scanlon:

Welcome to Banking on KC. I'm your host, Kelly Scanlon. Thank you for joining us. With us on this episode are Vince Anch, Executive Director of the Catholic Education Foundation and the organization's Senior Director of Development, Libby Knox. CEF works to provide educational scholarships for at-risk students at the lowest poverty levels. Today, we'll be talking about that mission as well as tax credits that are available when you give. Welcome to both of you.

Vince Anch:

Thank you.

Libby Knox:

Thank you.

Kelly Scanlon:

Vince, you're celebrating 25 years. That's great. Congratulations. It's been a big year for you.

Vince Anch:

Thank you. It has. It's been a big year.

Kelly Scanlon:

Well, tell us about the Catholic Education Foundation. Why did it get started 25 years ago and what have you been doing since?

Vince Anch:

Sure. Well, Catholic schools have had their challenges through the years, you know, economically. And 25 years ago, a former superintendent of the Catholic schools on the Kansas City side with the Archdiocese got together with a couple of community leaders, Tom Zarda and Rich Henry, and they said, "Hey, we got to do something to help our schools. They need help raising money, fixing things and scholarships and those things." And they sat down and just started passing the hat and raising money and asking their friends to help support schools who could not necessarily get their own fundraising going. Quickly, they realized the biggest need in the area is scholarships, and we don't want to get to the point where Catholic education or any private education is so expensive that only the wealthy can send their kids.

They said, "Let's focus on those families who basically have no shot of attending a school. They're low-income. They qualify under the federal poverty guidelines or just barely above it, and let's get them into Catholic schools and give them a high-quality faith-filled education and a safe environment." And it started to work so well that it just kept expanding and expanding. And next thing you know, they go from a handful of kids to, we're going to support 1,800 kids this year, which is fantastic.

Kelly Scanlon:

It's incredible. Yeah, almost 2000 children. And for eligibility purposes, you do not have to be Catholic in order to get these scholarships, correct? Tell us a little bit more about the eligibility.

Vince Anch:

Sure. There's very few eligibility requirements. You don't have to be Catholic, and as long as you're kindergarten through 12th grade, you're in the Kansas side, you're in the Archdiocese and you're eligible. And then the qualifications really come down to if the schools have room, and most of them do. And if your family qualifies for the federal Free and Reduced Lunch program. So those poverty guidelines is what we follow, and we stretch those wherever we can to help as many kids as possible. And a lot of these families that we support, many of them are lucky to do one or $200 a year, and some of the tuitions are 3,000, 5,000, and so cover probably half. And then the schools or the parishes will cover most of the other part. And the families, they'll do everything they possibly can.

Kelly Scanlon:

So your goal is 1800 scholarships for this year. Talk to us about the range, the value of those scholarships. Are they all a set amount? Are they based on what the family needs?

Libby Knox:

Well, they range, Kelly. They range based on the different scholarship offerings from about 50% of the tuition that a school asks for to 80%, 85%. And this is K through 12 at any of our schools. And it is a significant lift for families that there's absolutely no way that I could access an alternative education for my children. And as Vince mentioned, most of those scholarships continue year after year. And in our tax credit scholarship program, 90% of the money that we raise is mandated by the legislature to go directly to those scholarships. So they are all tuition-based scholarships. There's no requirement for scholarship recipients to maintain certain grade levels performance.

Kelly Scanlon:

All right, exactly.

Vince Anch:

Yeah. And we work with the principles who really have their fingers on the pulse of what a family needs. So rather than just saying, "Hey, here's $2,000 for your 20 students." We just say, "Hey, we're going to allocate this amount of money, and on average we'd like to see a give X, Y, Z. But some of them will, a family might only need 500, and then one family might need 3000. We leave that up to the principles to say, "Hey, do you mind if we? Absolutely, you do what you can to reach as many children as possible", and they're so good at it.

Kelly Scanlon:

You have three types of scholarships. Tell us about the different types, what distinguishes them?

Vince Anch:

Yeah. Our big one is just our traditional scholarships. And so those cover K through 12. And to be a part of those, there's 42 schools in the Archdiocese of Kansas City and Kansas, and we fund... About 23 of them are officially called CEF Schools. And by that criteria, basically to be a CEF school, you need to have a high portion of your enrollment, your student body, it has to be qualified for those federal poverty guidelines. So the average CEF school in the Archdiocese that is a CEF school has about 40% of their enrollment, are families considered low income. And so that's our traditional scholarship. That's what we've been doing for most of the 25 years.

We have a special smaller pool of funds we call our Guardian Angel Fund. And that is to help kids be able to stay in school if their families have a financial hardship, a big medical issue, a loss of a job, and then they'll tell their principal. The principal will call and say, "Hey, we got a family that they just can't afford to stay", and we've never turned anybody away. And then we have this new exciting program, our tax credit scholarship program, and I'll have Libby talk to you more about that.

Kelly Scanlon:

Yeah. Libby, walk us through the tax credit that's available that Vince just mentioned. Who's eligible? What are the donors advantages from making that contribution? Walk us through it.

Libby Knox:

It's a special program that the State of Kansas legislature developed several years ago, and it's really begun to flourish in the last couple of years. It allows students that are deemed at-risk and also qualify for our Free and Reduced Lunch guidelines, which is very consistent with our Catholic Education Foundation model of scholarship giving anyway. And the scholarships are awarded, certainly based on the significant need of the family and for donors to support the scholarship. The State of Kansas awards them a 70% income tax credit on their Kansas tax liability, which is a significant incentive I think for individuals, businesses, corporations, banks, insurance companies, pretty much anyone who pays taxes to the State of Kansas is eligible to participate.

Kelly Scanlon:

What's next? How do they get in touch? How do they get started with this?

Libby Knox:

Donors can participate simply by contacting Catholic Education Foundation at our website, which is cefks.org. And usually that's a good place for them to do a little bit of research about how the tax credits might benefit them in their particular situation. We provide examples for different taxpayer situations and scenarios there, where they can determine what type of benefit that they would get from a tax credit, which is quite different than just a standard charitable tax deduction. Tax credit is much more robust in that it directly can reduce or eliminate your state tax liability. So we have some scenarios available on our website and then some materials that we publish that walk donors through the scenarios of their tax liability, what they might expect from the Kansas 70% liability elimination or reduction. And then most of our donors also benefit from a residual income tax benefit on the federal side. For the 30% that is not covered under this Kansas State tax liability, often deductible on the federal side. And for certain taxpayers such as C corporations or some other corporations, there is a even more robust benefit on the federal side.

Kelly Scanlon:

Okay. So it's primarily a state benefit, but there can be some positive federal implications too, which of course everybody needs to consult with their tax consultant or their accountant. Let's talk about how the donations are used. Describe the impact over the years and some of the ways in which these scholarships have made a difference.

Libby Knox:

That's a great question, Kelly. And really one of the greatest impacts in ways that we evaluate success in this program and the ways, honestly, that the State of Kansas evaluate success. We have seen in recent years that our students that have been using this scholarship to attend Catholic schools are graduating at a 100% rate and advancing into the next grade in their Catholic schools on time, on schedule. And 97% of them typically head for additional education at the collegiate level or begin workforce training. So for donors, it's a very reliable way for them to see an excellent outcome in their investment in children. And understand that the supports needed for those students that often come from single parent families or some difficult economic circumstances or different social circumstances, can really find great supports in their Catholic school communities. And all those resources are available to work for the students and help ensure their progress and success.

Kelly Scanlon:

Do you have some favorite stories or any other things you can share with us?

Libby Knox:

I certainly do, Kelly. Even though this program is young, it was started just several years ago in the Kansas legislature, as I mentioned, it is producing students and scholars that have gone on to college in the State of Kansas and then returned to their communities. One young man returned to Bishop Ward High School, which was his alma mater. He was a refugee from Eastern European country, came to America, was able to attend Catholic schools on this scholarship, and then went to college, returned as a teacher at Bishop Ward. And has made his home and his family's home in Kansas City, Kansas in the very community where he found refuge in the United States. So.

Kelly Scanlon:

Yeah. That's a full circle.

Vince Anch:

I'll add that even the State of Kansas recognizes the power of education. And they will tell you that the average high school dropout in the State of Kansas, in their lifetime, that will cost the State of Kansas about a quarter of a million dollars from lower jobs, not using state programs and welfare type stuff and those kinds of things. Where an average high school graduate will have a positive economic impact through their life, but once they go on to college, that grows exponentially. And the neat thing about our program, we take a lot of kids that come from poor communities, whether it's urban or rural, and many of these kids don't finish high school. Sometimes the average is as low as 40% of those high school kids will go on to college where our kids, we have 97% and then 98% will go on to college or some kind of training, community college, four year college.

And then their economic impact is significant. The other stat is, it costs the state about $18,000 to educate one student per year. We're educating students on a fraction of that, and we're getting equal to better result. And we're getting great return on that investment, not only for that child and that family, but in the community.

Kelly Scanlon:

Right. And you have a generational effect too.

Vince Anch:

And we've used the line, "You're breaking the cycle of poverty." Because you know can do anything you can to attack poverty. I used to work for Catholic Charities, and we realize the biggest impact you can make is when you change someone's environment and give them tools so that they can get a job. And they have the clothing, they have whatever they need to move forward. But education is that differentiator that pulls people out of some of those impoverished communities. Because more opportunities open when you have more education.

Kelly Scanlon:

You have another related program for young adults, it's called CEF Futures. Can you talk with us about that?

Libby Knox:

CEF Futures is an initiative really that we started several years ago to involve young professionals primarily and younger members of the workforce to many of which were products of Catholic schools or private education or variety of backgrounds. But they see the need for access by young families and young students to educational options. And they work with us, sometimes in a concert socially and sometimes for projects based at schools where they can volunteer, painting a gymnasium or working on special projects where our schools need a little extra help. And they really develop some great relationships, sometimes great professional relationships, sometimes just personal relationships and really find common denominators in their desires to assist children and families with the opportunities that they themselves had enjoyed.

Kelly Scanlon:

What are your goals for the upcoming school year? You mentioned 1800 scholarships, which is an awful lot.

Vince Anch:

Yeah.

Kelly Scanlon:

What else are you working towards?

Vince Anch:

Yeah, so right now we have 300 children in need of financial assistance right now for this school year. And we've already enrolled them. And now we kind of do it reverse engineering. Now we go out and find the money to make sure that they can stay in school, pay for next semester, and then we continue to raise the money so that we can fund them K through 12 all the way through, if possible. And that's our goal. In 25 years, we have awarded over $25 million in scholarships, and that's 22,000 scholarships in that time period. Also you can think about how big of an impact has that been for these communities? Think we've got the right networks to keep people together in a family atmosphere, but over the next 25 years, we think these numbers are going to grow significantly. Of that $25 million, 4 of it is going to be awarded this school year, and that's a significant increase. We cracked 3 million last year for the first time, and now we're going to crack 4 million.

Kelly Scanlon:

So the need is there. You mentioned the next 25 years, obviously you've just come off a phenomenal 25 years. What does the next 25 years look like for you?

Vince Anch:

Well, I hope that we more than double what we can award each year. So we look at kind of three to five year chunks, and we just cracked 4 million in scholarships. And so we'd love to crack 10 million in maybe three years for the most. So 25 years from now, if I could say, we're giving away $15 million to 5,000 kids and just changing the face of Catholic education and breaking the cycle of poverty for thousands of families, I think this community would look a lot different.

Kelly Scanlon:

So the impact, there's so many levels of it. We've talked about for the families themselves, we've talked about for the generational impact, we've talked about the workforce advantages and to the Catholic schools too, that it helps keep their doors open as well. Many, many facets to this program. And Libby, just any last thoughts about the tax credit that you want to remind people about?

Libby Knox:

Well, the tax credit is offered on a calendar year basis. So if, for those that are interested in reducing or eliminating their state tax liability, they can make a contribution to CEF at cefks.org and contact us for more information. There are some rules of the road for donors and some guidelines that everybody needs to abide by. It is a legislative developed program. We hope to expand the eligibility for students this year so that more students in different categories can take advantage of it. And for families too.

Kelly Scanlon:

One of the things I want to clarify here is that, yes, this tax program, as you've pointed out, exists through legislative action. However, for people who might want to give something but they don't really want to go through the tax credit program, that's still a possibility, right?

Vince Anch:

Absolutely. In fact, we have a special program where we have this million dollar matching challenge grant, so it's tied into our Gaudeamus event, which just took place, but we still have money that we need to match. So if somebody wanted to give a 100 dollars, they could go to our website and hit Gaudeamus and that 100 dollars would be matched by this consortium of families who help us out. And there's no limit to that until we spend reach that million dollar limit. It's I think 1.2 million actually this year. So it's a way they can get their money doubled and reach even more kids if they can.

Kelly Scanlon:

So anyone who wants to donate, whether it's to find out more about the tax credit program, whether it's for the matching dollars program that you just mentioned, or if they want to join the CEF Futures group, they go to that website, cefks.org and all the information that you've just delivered is on there. And they can get in touch with each of you through that site too, right?

Vince Anch:

Exactly. And just one other thing I want to share with you. We get money from a number of banks throughout the region, but Country Club Bank in particular has been the most generous bank, including their employees and ownership and the bank itself.

Kelly Scanlon:

And thank the both of you for all of the work that you do and just for supporting the community in this very unique way. We appreciate you being here today.

Vince Anch:

It's our pleasure.

Libby Knox:

Thank you.

Vince Anch:

Thank you.

Joe Close:

This is Joe Close, President of Country Club Bank. Thank you to Vince Anch and Libby Knox for being our guests on this episode of Banking on KC. As Vince said, "The biggest impact we can make is to change someone's environment and provide the tools they need to move forward." A good education is one way to change a child's environment. It is a major differentiator for lifting children out of generational poverty and opening future opportunities for them. Country Club Bank recognizes the vital role a solid education plays in creating a child's future opportunities. We are proud to support the work of the Catholic Education Foundation through board service volunteer efforts in the schools and funding. Thanks for tuning in this week. We're banking on you, Kansas City. Country Club Bank, member FDIC.

 

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