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$150 million gift to 20 schools from Beth White and family
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$150 million gift to 20 schools from Beth White and family

The nation’s largest single investment in Catholic K-12 schools was announced in Northwest Indiana. The Dean and Barbara White Family Foundation says it’s giving $150 million over the next 10 years to the Big Shoulders Fund, a nonprofit that supports Catholic schools in the Chicago area and Northwest Indiana.

That money will impact all 20 schools of the Diocese of Gary, according to Big Shoulders Fund CEO Josh Hale. “This transformational donation will open many doors, allowing the creation and enhancement of curriculum, providing advancement in professional development and growth opportunities for teachers and school leadership, assisting with enrollment and tuition management, providing infrastructure improvements where needed and, perhaps most importantly, creating valuable support services to meet the learning needs of all these children,” Hale said.

Big Shoulders plans to target that money toward communities with the greatest economic and educational need. Gary Bishop Robert McClory said the diocese is still working with Big Shoulders on what, specifically, that will look like.

“So it means to make sure that our schools are accessible to seek them out, to make sure that the quality is there providing the support, and the sustainability,” McClory explained. “And that includes a wide range of things to make sure that we’re able to not just have a nice boost but to sustain this over time.”

The bishop also announced that the diocese plans to establish a separate endowment fund — which it hopes to grow up to $50 million — to boost compensation for its teachers, principals and other school staff.

This comes as Indiana has made funding more available to private schools through its voucher program. A 2023 law significantly eased the income requirements for its Choice Scholarship, and the state paid $439 million in tuition grants to private schools this past school year.

McClory said the Diocese of Gary has seen enrollment increase at its schools.

 “Right now, if you look overall, about 22 percent of our enrollment is non-Catholic, and so we always open the doors to make sure that those who want a Catholic education have that opportunity,” McClory said.

State-level officials were also part of the announcement, including Secretary of Education Dr. Katie Jenner and Governor Eric Holcomb.

Holcomb said investments in education play a big role in Hoosiers’ pursuit of happiness. “Indiana has never been more devoted as a state to making sure that Indiana’s a place for all to get on the path, to have that pathway lit up,” Holcomb said.

Indiana House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) also made the trip, saying Wednesday’s event was his favorite of those he’s attended as speaker. “This event changes generations,” Huston said. “This event changes outcomes.”

Still, Holcomb said the state remains committed to funding traditional public schools. “The bottom line is always to make sure families can identify the best scenario for their student to grow and flourish in the classroom, as well,” Holcomb said.

Dean and Barbara White Family Foundation trustee Beth White said the $150 million donation will serve as a beacon for the Region’s youth.

“That will provide values-based education and performance-based education for decades to come,” White said.

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