Entrepreneur, Stephen Stumpf, invests in at-risk students
More than 35 years of creating and captaining companies in the New Orleans region has taught Stephen Stumpf that smart and timely investments in human capital are the best way to shape the trajectory of the future of a company or a community.
Stephen was born and raised in New Orleans, attending Our Lady of Lourdes grammar school and De La Salle High School. After graduating with a BS in Engineering Sciences from the University of New Orleans, he founded several companies and currently is a Director and former CEO and Chairman of Durr Heavy Construction, a New Orleans-based construction firm specializing in demolition, site preparation and utilities.
“Empowering people with knowledge, skills, and a spirit of innovation is the best way to equip them to participate in our rapidly-changing and technology-intensive economy,” Stephen explained. “Not receiving an adequate education puts a person at risk for manipulation and exploitation, which is unacceptable in our community,” he added.
In 2017, Education Week magazine ranked Louisiana’s public schools as 49th in the nation in overall quality. More than half of the state’s roughly 700,000 public school students attend schools rated as “low-performing.”
“Parents of students in these schools are aware that the quality of education that their children are receiving is severely limiting the options available to them in life,” Stephen said. “Public schools need our support, but our focus should be on what is best for our students, not on structures.”
Recognizing that something needed to be done to help families whose students are stuck in failing schools, Stephen became an early supporter of ACE Scholarships and Louisiana’s unique Tuition Donation Rebate (TDR) program, which provides tuition assistance for students seeking to enroll in a K-12 private school. Only students from families with incomes below 250 percent of the federal poverty line are eligible for the program, although the median annual income for many families hovers around just $32,000.
“ACE Scholarships, through the Tuition Donation Rebate, has provided many parents with the best education for their children,” Stephen explained. “But for every child who receives an ACE Scholarship, many others are left on the waiting list because of a lack of funding – more needs to be done to educate individuals and businesses about the incredible benefits of investing in this program.”
Any donation through the TDR allows a donor to receive a 95-percent tax rebate. If someone donates $5,000 to the program, they take the charitable contribution deduction on their federal and state taxes and then receive a check for $4,750 back the following year, and their donation provides a scholarship that changes the life of a student. Any amount can be donated to the program.