Efforts underway to raise funds for Msgr. Lafferty Tuition Foundation
By RENEE WEBB, Globe editor
October 12, 2006
Fundraising efforts began about a month ago for the Msgr. Lafferty Tuition
This foundation was established as a result of new legislation signed by Iowa
Governor Tom Vilsack. In June, the governor signed the Educational Opportunities
Act that allows Catholic schools to establish a scholarship tuition organization
that provides huge tax advantages to donors. It allows Iowa taxpayers in all
brackets to receive a 65 percent tax credit on their gift to a tuition
organization, which in the diocese has been named the Msgr. Lafferty Tuition
According to Kevin Vickery, diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools, the
first gifts came in on Sept. 18.
This year scholarship tuition organizations throughout the state are allowed
to raise a total of $2.5 million. The diocesan share is $690,609.
Each Catholic school in the diocese has been given the opportunity to raise a
specific amount of funds based on their school enrollment. Money that is
designated for their school will be used for tuition assistance at their school.
"A lot of the development directors and administrators in the schools
are working with their local donors to reach their goal," noted Vickery.
"When a gift is received from a local designation - the entire gift is
credited to that designation."
He commended St. Edmond Catholic Schools of Fort Dodge in their efforts as
they have raised about one-half of their allotment.
Vickery mentioned that 25 percent of the total fund, however, would remain
undesignated so that the Msgr. Lafferty Foundation "will be able to assist
those schools with the greatest needs." That way, if a school or schools
have particular high numbers of low-income families more tuition assistance
would be available.
"One of the primary goals that the foundation board wanted to establish
is that this fund - both from the tax benefit as well as from the tuition
assistance benefit - was as equitably as possible spread throughout all of our
Catholic schools," said Vickery.
With that in mind, rather than giving one or two donors the option to receive
all of the tax credits the diocese is presently limiting the maximum gift to
$1,000 per donor ($2,000 for a married couple) with no limitation on minimum
gifts. On Nov. 1, the cap will be lifted.
Because the late Msgr. James Lafferty was such a strong lobbyist for Catholic
schools, the diocese opted to name its tuition organization after the diocesan
"Msgr. Lafferty, when he was the diocesan superintendent of Catholic
schools, one of his roles was to raise the level of awareness in the Iowa
legislature and the Iowa political process of the importance of accredited,
nonpublic schools," said Vickery. "He spent a great deal of time
nurturing relationships with the legislature and transforming the fact that Iowa
has a strong traditional in parental choice. Parents should have the choice as
to where their children are educated."
Not only did Msgr. Lafferty believe parents should have the right to choose
where their children were educated, noted Vickery, but the late superintendent
believed there should be as few barriers preventing low-income families from
taking advantage of the option of a Catholic education.
"Many legislators today still have strong commitments to the vision that
Msgr. Lafferty had," he said.
The priest helped to promote legislation related to transportation, textbooks
"So when we had the opportunity to add a fourth T - tuition - it only
seemed right that Msgr. Lafferty was part of that effort as well," said
Vickery. "That's why we have chosen this foundation that will impact
thousands of children and families to enable them to always be able to consider
Catholic schools as a choice."
Sara Eide, executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference, said Msgr.
Lafferty was the most effective lobbyist the Iowa Catholic Conference has ever
had. With that in mind, she was thrilled to hear that the Diocese of Sioux City
had named its scholarship fund after him.
"Msgr. Lafferty was a champion for Catholic schools. This is a great way
to honor his memory and to show our gratitude for his years of hard work. I know
he is smiling down on all of us now and probably had a hand in this legislative
victory," she said.
Father Roger Linnan, who served as the director of religious education when
Msgr. Lafferty was serving as the diocesan superintendent of schools, described
him as bright, with a great sense of humor who had an ability to mimic almost
every priest and bishop in the diocese.
"He was totally committed to the Catholic school system - morning, noon
and night that was what he was working on," said Father Linnan, who worked
with him at the chancery for about 15 years. "He was the most active
lobbyist for our diocese for the legislature. When bussing for Catholic schools
was approved, I think he more than any other person was responsible for that law
Knowing Msgr. Lafferty had such a strong commitment to Catholic education,
Father Linnan finds it very appropriate for the new foundation to be named in
"I don't think there would be any other person in our diocese more
worthy than Msgr. Lafferty because of all the years he put in the tremendous
desire he had for the schools," said Father Linnan.
Vickery said he would love to see this as a means to increase student
"For those families who for whatever reasons have seen there were
financial barriers to choosing a Catholic school, we are hoping this will be an
opportunity for local schools to encourage people to see that Catholic schools
can be affordable for them," he said.
If a particular school has not raised their share of the allocation by Dec.
1, the remaining portion of their allocation could be picked up by another
Presently, members of the diocesan staff are working with local school boards
and persons who work with tax preparation so that these individuals can be
better informed about the new law. They have held information meetings in Storm
Lake, Carroll and Le Mars. They are willing to hold other meetings or seminars
wherever there is an interest.