Tax credit program: A boon to schools

By Beth Donze, Clarion Herald

James “J.T.” Hannan has been named the director of advancement for the Archdiocese of New Orleans’ Office of Catholic Schools, a new position created in partnership with the Catholic Community Foundation that will focus on making Catholic schools more accessible to families who want a Catholic education for their children.
In his new role, Hannan will be available to enhance, assist and create development and fundraising platforms for the Office of Catholic Schools and its nearly 80 elementary and secondary schools.

Tax credit will help schools

Hannan said one of his ongoing goals will be to acquaint more principals, pastors, business people, school families and other education stakeholders with Louisiana’s State Tax Credit Program for tuition assistance, in which individuals and businesses can direct their state income taxes to specific private schools or school systems, including the New Orleans Office of Catholic Schools, for the purpose of helping prospective students at those schools cover the cost of tuition.

“Think about empowering the parents at a given school and saying, ‘You can direct your business’ state taxes to help your own school.’ That way, schools would not have to dole out money from their (existing) scholarship pool,” Hannan said.

“The big picture is that what schools need is an infusion of scholarship dollars, and whether those funds come from the state, a private donor or any number of programs, it can only help more parents enroll their children in Catholic schools,” Hannan added.

As much as a boon the tax credits would be to a school’s ability to defray tuition costs for qualified students, only schools that participate in the program can receive this potential stream of revenue, Hannan notes. Of the roughly 80 elementary and secondary schools under the auspices of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, only 54 currently are participating, he said.

“The program, at its height, has only collected $3 million statewide for the purpose of tuition assistance to private schools. I think that it could (grow to) $30 million or $60 million,” said Hannan, noting that there is no cap on how many tax dollars can be directed by individuals or businesses to schools, although tax-payers must designate at least two recipients on the required form.

Also hurting participation is that some school principals wrongly conflate the State Tax Credit Program with “vouchers,” or do not realize that their school can be designated as a state tax credit recipient, Hannan said.

“This is not a voucher program. The schools are not giving up their admissions criteria to accept students,” he said. “I’m going to really work hard to make sure that all of our schools are participating.”

J.T. Hannan, the new director of advancement for Catholic schools in the archdiocese, says a little-known Louisiana State Tax Credit Program for tuition assistance could help more students’ families afford a Catholic education.

Veteran of Catholic causes

Hannan, a 1999 graduate of Loyola University New Orleans, comes to his new role after a 20-year career in education, development, policy and nonprofit work for entities including Loyola’s Office of Admissions, the Taylor Foundation/TOPS program and University Medical Center. Before being hired as the Catholic Community Foundation’s senior director of planned giving in January 2018, Hannan worked for the Bayou District Foundation and helped implement its “cradle to college” education pipeline, with an emphasis on early-childhood education at the nationally recognized Educare-New Orleans.

Maryland-raised Hannan also has a long history with the Archdiocese of New Orleans. His great uncle was the late Archbishop Philip Hannan. After Hurricane Katrina, J.T. Hannan was asked by then-Archbishop Alfred Hughes to form a young professionals committee in service to the Archbishop’s Community Appeal, helping the effort raise a then-record $1.9 million. He has been involved with Catholic Charities since 2007, assisting with development efforts and as a board member.

Poised to help schools

Although he will be working for the Office of Catholic Schools as its director of advancement, Hannan will be based at the Catholic Community Foundation’s offices on Howard Avenue, where he will be able to link school leaders with the Foundation’s staff of professionals who can assist them with everything from database management to creative fundraising. Schools can turn to Hannan for help in “tweaking” the things they are doing well, as well as for his advice on how to get their fundraising and development projects started.

“The Foundation has a deep roster of experienced fundraisers, grant-writers and people who have been in the non-profit and philanthropy world for a long while,” Hannan said. “I can bounce ideas off them and say, ‘Such and such school has this challenge. How would you approach that?’ I can mesh the expertise of the folks in the Catholic Community Foundation with the needs on the ground at the schools. I want schools to know that I’m another person they can call.”

One out-of-the-box idea for elementary schools might be to seek out their alumni and invite them to a “day back” on campus. At these gatherings, items on the school’s wish list – from basic furnishings to a new computer lab – could be articulated.

“Anything you can do to get your potential donor base engaged is a great thing,” Hannan said.

Need to attract students

With slightly dipping enrollment at Catholic schools in recent years, increasing competition from public and charter schools, a continuing post-Katrina population deficit of about 90,000 and an influx of new residents who do not identify as Catholic, Hannan said Catholic schools must “compete at the highest level” to attract students.

“All these new charters are trying to raise money, too,” he said. “We’ve got to come up with a game plan and try to implement it, and I’m here to help (schools) do that.”
Hannan’s other responsibilities will include working with the superintendent of Catholic Schools to bolster special-needs initiatives and address the unique challenges faced by schools in which the majority of students qualify for free or reduced lunch, including helping their principals set up a fundraising apparatus that works for them.

“(Fundraising) could come in many different ways,” Hannan said. “Does your school have an annual fund? Does it have business partnerships? Does it know about the State Tax Credit Program? Has it considered looking for in-kind donations from a landscaping company or some other business?”

Hannan said schools of all sizes often are so busy with the important work of educating their students that the areas of development and stewardship sometimes get nudged aside.

“I am a kind of asset – a detached party – who can come in and say, ‘I’m not so much worried about your carpool line or your day-to-day operations, but I’m here to help you build a framework for effective fundraising,’” Hannan said.

The State Tax Credit Program for tuition assistance is administered by two state tuition organizations (STOs): ACE and Arete Scholars. To learn more about the program’s logistics, to offer ideas or ask Hannan a question, email jthannan@arch-no.org.

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