In just 100 days since entrepreneur Ted Forstmann and retailing heir John Walton committed $100 million to launch the program in June, the Children’s Scholarship Fund (CSF) has raised over $70 million in matching funds from contributors in 38 partner cities across the country, securing a total of $140 million for scholarship funds. Some 35,000 children nationwide will be awarded K-8 scholarships and given the opportunity to attend the private or parochial school of their choice.
CSF’s efforts, which represent the largest single expansion of privately funded school choice programs to date, are built on the foundation laid by CEO America over the past six years. By the fall of 1999, the CSF expansion is expected to increase the number of private voucher programs from 42 to near 70, serving approximately 50,000 children.
Beginning September 28, low-income families living in participating cities can apply for the K-8 scholarships by calling 800-805-KIDS. Applications will be accepted until April 1999, and all awards will be announced on April 17. The scholarships, which are offered for at least four years beginning in September 1999, range from $600 to $1,600. The average tuition at participating schools is $1,900.
“I believe we have made a tremendous start,” said Forstmann at the National Press Club on September 28. “We’re trying to give low-income parents an equal opportunity to get a good education for their kids–whether that education comes from a public school, a parochial school, a charter school, or a private school.”
The distinction is not between public education and private education, continued Forstmann, but between good education and bad education. “We must give parents the ability to seek a good education wherever they can find it,” he added. “Nothing is more important to the future of our nation than education.”
CSF board members include many who are well known on Wall Street and Capitol Hill–Peter Flanigan, Peter S. Lynch, GOP Majority Leader Senator Trent Lott, and Democrats Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Congressman Charles B. Rangel–but they also include other well-known figures, including Miami Heat head coach Pat Riley, Michael S. Ovitz, the Rev. Floyd H. Flake, Andrew Young, Joseph Califano Jr., Colin Powell, and Stedman Graham.
All share a concern over “the lack of equal opportunity in education,” noted Forstmann, and all agree that “a competitive education environment is the right and obvious answer for America’s children.”
Forstmann is cofounder and senior partner of Forstmann Little & Co., a private investment firm, as well as chairman of Gulfstream Aerospace. John Walton is a director of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.