11/1997 Voucher Voice

Published November 1, 1997

New Scholarships Established in San Francisco

In a unique expansion of the CEO America private scholarship program, the Pacific Research Institute has established a new performance-based, results-oriented program to serve 300 academically talented high school students in San Francisco. The $2.4 million San Francisco Independent Scholars Fund will award four-year scholarships of $2,000 a year to 100 students a year for the next three years, beginning with the 1998-99 school year. Students receiving their diploma in fewer than four years may apply the balance of their scholarship to college tuition.

Scholarship recipients who pursue an approved course of study that is academically rigorous may select either a private, independent, or parochial school, or they may enroll in an approved home or self-directed program that leads to a diploma. This represents a unique expansion of the CEO America private scholarship program to include high school students, to award scholarships based on merit, and to fund home schoolers–the fastest growing educational alternative.

Another unique characteristic of the new scholarship program is that it requires award recipients to establish a Partner Bank Account. Half of the annual scholarship award is deposited into this bank account every six months, in July and in January. Students also must obtain a credit card to which Scholarship Fund-approved expenditures can be charged.

“The San Francisco Independent Scholarship Fund will provide the parents of San Francisco with an incredible opportunity to enhance the quality of education that their children receive,” said CEO America President Fritz Steiger.

To be eligible for the scholarships, students must be San Francisco residents eligible for admission to a competitive academic institution. The rigorous application process includes “participation” contracts signed by parents and student, an essay, California Test of Basic Skills, and an Individual Education Plan that incorporates a one-year budget.

To renew the scholarships, students must meet yearly performance-based, results-oriented criteria established by the fund’s Admissions and Advisory Committee. The criteria include timely submission of progress reports, Individual Education Plans, expenditure reports, report cards, and appropriate scores on standardized national achievement tests.

Milwaukee School Board Backs Choice

In a surprise move in early September, all nine members of the Milwaukee Public School Board of Directors signed a letter in support of the fund-raising efforts of Partners Advancing Values in Education, a private scholarship fund that provides half-tuition scholarships to enable low-income children to attend non-public schools in Milwaukee. Last year PAVE raised $4.5 million to provide scholarships to over 4,200 students who attended 110 independent schools in Milwaukee.

“Regardless of our individual views regarding school choice,” said the board in the letter, “PAVE’s efforts to afford disadvantaged families their first choice for quality education is a critical initiative not only to help thousands of poor families, but to support the reforms MPS is trying to make.”

School board member Christine Sinicki told Education Week, “We all realize the public schools do not address the needs of every child, so there have to be options.”

In the wake of the recent Wisconsin Court of Appeals ruling, which struck down the inclusion of religious schools in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, PAVE was once again faced with the challenge of raising $4.5 million to provide choice scholarship to the children affected by the decision. To support this effort, the Lynde & Harry Bradley Foundation has offered PAVE a $2 million matching grant, leaving PAVE with another $600,000 to raise to meet its goal of $4.5 million.

PAVE executive director Dan McKinley believes the board’s letter is strong evidence of progress in the effort to reform education. “With this kind of cooperation and perseverance,” he said, “Milwaukee could be the first major city to offer all children a quality education in schools that serve the public interest.”

Growing BISON Fund Attracts Attention

The growth of the three-year-old Buffalo Inner-city Scholarship Opportunity Network, or BISON Fund, has helped drive the school choice debate in Buffalo because of the ripple effects it has created throughout the city and state, according to Fund executive director Chris Jacobs. Since 1995, when the program offered 230 scholarships and placed 300 applications on a waiting list, the Fund’s reputation has grown and donations have increased. This year, an estimated 500 scholarships will be offered.

“We have become a known commodity in the community,” said Jacobs, “and now with 500 families and 42 schools participating, we are no longer just a ‘cute little initiative.'” The overwhelming satisfaction of participating parents has created a great deal of city, state, and federal exposure, said Jacobs, who noted that “The city knows of BISON as does our state and federal leadership.”

Such exposure is only to be expected with the amount of savings the Fund has generated for local and state government, explains Jacobs, pointing out that the per-pupil cost for Buffalo Public School students is $6,200 for non-special-needs children and $8,900 for special-needs children. According to tabulations by the Fund, during the current school year the scholarship program will save over $600,000 in local tax dollars and over $3 million in state tax dollars.