Bay-Area Students Awarded Scholarships by Think Tank

Published January 1, 2009

The Independent Institute, a nonpartisan public policy think tank with offices in Oakland, California and Washington, DC, has announced its Independent Scholarship Fund will award $315,000 in need- and merit-based scholarships for 212 East Bay Students to attend private schools in the 2008-09 school year.

Since the fund’s founding in 1999, it has awarded more than $2.4 million, funded primarily by Bay-area foundations, donors, and grants. Since 1999 the group has given 1,737 scholarships to send students to private schools. The current awards were announced October 10.

“California is kind of the poster child for failed public schools,” said Independent Institute Vice President Mary Theroux. “We get wonderful stories of complete attitude changes from children. You get things like a mother saying, ‘My daughter was failing, didn’t want to go to school every day, she was crying, and now she’s excited and challenged. I’m a high school dropout, and here, she wants to become a doctor.'”

Nearly two-thirds of all California public K-12 schools failed to meet their performance targets in 2008, according to the California Department of Education’s Academic Performance Index. Theroux said the Independent Institute tries to make parents realize their children do not necessarily have to attend the schools assigned to them by the government—they have a choice.

“We do a lot of outreach and communication and advertising, just hoping to plant a seed of, hey, maybe it’s possible that you can aspire to a different educational opportunity for your child,” Theroux said.

Jillian Melchior ([email protected]) writes from Michigan.