Scaling Down: The Power of One

Is it truly possibly for one person to make a positive difference in education in America? Darla Romfo has a good answer to this question. She is president of the Children’s Scholarship Fund, which has helped more than 145,000 low-income children nationwide to attend private grade schools. She wrote:

“[Children’s Scholarship Fund founder] John [Walton] once told me…that giving the scholarships and meeting the kids and their parents grounded the whole effort of trying to reform the larger system. He knew no matter what happened with those efforts, he was having a direct impact on the lives of kids today….

“[A] caring adult who really invests in an authentic relationship with a child will bring enormous benefits to the child, to say nothing of the rewards to the adult….

“We can’t stop trying to get education right in America, but maybe we will get further faster if every adult who can gets involved in the life of a child who has a couple of strikes against them. Whether it is through a mentoring program, a scholarship program, a school-based program, or some other means, it could make the ultimate difference in a child’s life, and you don’t have to be up to speed on the latest education reform idea to do it and make it work.”

For more information about how you can help the Children’s Scholarship Fund make a difference today, visit scholarshipfund.org.

What Gets Kids “Ready for College and Life?”

Students across Oregon are back in school. Have you ever thought about how important it is where a child goes to school? After their family, the greatest influence on children as they grow up is usually their school.

Private scholarship programs like the Children’s Scholarship Fund-Portland help elementary children from lower-income families choose the school that is right for them. CSF-Portland has helped nearly 700 Oregon kids get a “hand up” in private, parochial, and home school educational settings.

Studies of similar scholarship programs around the country show the difference educational opportunity makes in children’s lives, including raising their chances of high school graduation. By choosing the right school for their child and paying part of the tuition themselves, parents are empowered to hold schools accountable. When parents actively invest in their children’s education, students are highly motivated to succeed.

A young man who attended private schools in Portland thanks to the Children’s Scholarship Fund wrote at graduation, “I have learned that nothing’s going to be handed to you and that you’ll succeed through hard work….[Private school] was challenging, but it has gotten me ready for college and life.”

A quality elementary education is a simple step that puts kids with limited choices on a path to success that can change the rest of their lives. To see how you can help a child reach his or her potential through this program, visit cascadepolicy.org.

Low-Income Scholarship Recipients “Highly Successful” in High School and Beyond

The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice just released an exploratory study examining the graduates of the Children’s Scholarship Fund Baltimore. CSF Baltimore is a privately funded scholarship program helping low-income children in the Baltimore area to attend the tuition-based elementary schools of their parents’ or guardians’ choice. CSF Baltimore is a partner program of the New York-based Children’s Scholarship Fund.

According to the study:

“The study found that CSFB elementary scholarship recipients had indeed been highly successful in their post-elementary educational achievements. Nearly all CSFB alumni contacted had graduated from high school in four or fewer years after eighth grade―97 percent to be exact. This high percentage is nearly identical to tracking studies completed with Children’s Scholarship Fund programs in other metropolitan areas (Philadelphia, Charlotte, and Toledo). The percentage is much higher than the national high school graduation rate of 70 percent, and higher than the Baltimore City Public School (BCPS) graduation rate of 38 percent to 64 percent.”

Children’s Scholarship Fund partner programs empower students to overcome challenges through a strong foundation in their K-8 education. As these children grow up, studies show that the philanthropic investments made in their education―combined with the initiative, dedication, and involvement of parents and teachers―is paying off for tens of thousands of children who now have a better chance at success in high school, college, careers, and life.

Giving Parents a Choice and Children a Chance

A helping hand makes all the difference to elementary school children who need a chance. Last spring I attended a luncheon at Central Catholic High School in Portland to honor graduating seniors with athletic scholarships to college. I was invited by a young man who began to be sponsored by the Children’s Scholarship Fund-Portland when he was in grade school.

“I have learned that nothing’s going to be handed to you and that you’ll succeed through hard work,” Kidus told me. “[Private school] was challenging, but it has gotten me ready for college and life.”

One of Central Catholic’s star basketball players, Kidus now attends Portland State University and plays for the Vikings. He was able to attend private schools because of scholarship assistance from caring Oregonians.

January 22-28 is the second annual National School Choice Week. A collaboration of more than 200 organizations across the country, National School Choice Week highlights the need for effective educational options for all children, especially those most in need of increased educational opportunity. Participating groups believe parents should be empowered to choose the best educational environments for their children and support a variety of school choice options, including increased access to high-performing public schools, public charter schools, magnet schools, virtual schools, private schools, and homeschooling.

Scholarship programs like the Children’s Scholarship Fund-Portland help put private and parochial schools within the reach of elementary children like Kidus. Because of the Children’s Scholarship Fund and its local partner programs, more than 123,000 low-income children nationwide have attended the private and parochial schools of their parents’ choice. In fact, the Children’s Scholarship Fund is the only national K-8 scholarship organization in the country, providing help and hope to kids who are eager to learn and to achieve.

Believing that every child, regardless of family income, should have access to a quality education, Ted Forstmann and John Walton cofounded the Children’s Scholarship Fund in New York City in 1998. Forstmann and Walton challenged local donors across the country to join them in funding the initial 40,000 K-12 scholarships worth $200 million. The Children’s Scholarship Fund remains the country’s largest charity helping parents to send their children to the schools of their choice.

Here in Oregon, local donors made pledges sufficient for Cascade Policy Institute to launch a $2 million CSF partner program, the Children’s Scholarship Fund-Portland, which has given more than 600 students a “hand up.” “CSF-Portland scholars” have chosen a diverse range of Oregon private and parochial schools, but they are united in their gratitude to each and every benefactor who made their individual dreams come true.

To be eligible for scholarship assistance, families must have incomes low enough that they would qualify for the Federal Free and Reduced Price Lunch Program; but every parent must pay part of their children’s tuition themselves. Making the scholarship a “hand up,” rather than a “handout,” ensures that parents stay engaged with their children’s education, a key component of student success. In fact, CSF-Portland parents pay, on average, more than half the cost of their tuition (they pay $1,900 per child this year). By choosing to pay for private education, they forgo the $10,000-per-child which Oregon currently spends on public education in favor of a better chance for their children.

CSF-Portland scholarships average only $1,700 per child, but this often makes the difference between children attending a public school where they are not thriving or a private school where they are. Scholarships are funded by local donors here in Oregon, whose gifts are matched by the national Children’s Scholarship Fund in New York, so a $100 gift to CSF-Portland can sponsor a low-income child’s tuition for a month.

Ted Forstmann said, “Every child, regardless of their parents’ income, should have access to a quality education – an education that will not only prepare them for successful private lives, but help them to build cohesive communities and a strong democracy. We believe if you give parents a choice, you will give their children a chance.”

He also truly believed, “If you save one life, you save the world.” While Americans engage in necessary debates on education reform, we cannot wait to help the children sitting in classrooms today. The Children’s Scholarship Fund-Portland empowers lower-income Oregon children to get a “hand up” early in life through a quality elementary education, a simple step that puts kids with limited choices on a path to success that gets them “ready for life.”

Solid Foundations Mean More Graduations

Kathryn Hickok
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By Kathryn Hickok

Solid Foundations Mean More Graduations

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Did you know that students who drop out of high school are three times as likely to face unemployment, earn less than half the average salary of a college graduate, and are 47 times more likely to end up incarcerated than college graduates?

In Oregon, a third of public high school students do not earn a standard high school diploma in four years. What if you could do one simple thing to increase a lower-income child’s likelihood of high school graduation?

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111,000 Reasons for Hope

Kathryn HickokQuickPoint!


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Are you dismayed by the high school graduation rates in so many major cities in the U.S.? If you could do something to help lower-income kids graduate from high school on time, would you do it?

Since 1999 the Children’s Scholarship Fund has helped over 111,000 children nationwide to attend the private schools of their parents’ choice. Studies of CSF partner programs around the country show the difference educational opportunity has made in these children’s lives, including raising their chances of high school graduation.

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