Founder’s Meeting Highlights Stunning Success of Private Voucher Movement

Published June 1, 1998

CEO America’s Fourth Annual Founder’s Meeting was held on April 28-29 in New York City. CEO America President Fritz Steiger highlighted the organization’s outstanding progress over the past year: program expansion, with eight new initiatives; financial growth, with a significant increase in funding; and citizen education, with a dramatic increase in media coverage.

Making such progress possible was not only a series of outstanding new programs, culminating with CEO Horizon in San Antonio, said Steiger, but also a number of other important factors. These included last June’s article in Forbes, the American Airlines Investor Link, last year’s National Training Conference, the revised Training Manual, plus improved brochures, an updated Web site, and a new promotional video.

The variety of private scholarship initiatives just in the New York region was illustrated by comments from participants such as Mayree Clark, who described the Student/Sponsor Partnership in New York City, where students are paired with an adult mentor/sponsor. Geoffrey Rosenberger summarized the efforts of the Wegman Inner-City Voucher Program to provide assistance to children to attend a Catholic school in Rochester.

School Choice in the City

The importance of school choice efforts such as these to the revitalization of the city was clear to participants who toured the Rev. Floyd Flake’s Allen Christian Church in Jamaica, NY. Flake’s church has renovated some 26 blocks of the city, bringing to the neighborhood such improvements as senior housing, day care, and a school. The line separating the 26-block haven from the rest of the city was very distinct, according to those who took the tour.

Perspectives on school choice and the city were provided by Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler, who extolled the virtues of school choice, and New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who spoke about education in his city and the need for reform. Giuliani also described the successful city reforms he had implemented to fight crime, noting how those reforms were “giving people their freedom back.”

“If you’re afraid to go out on the street, afraid to go to a movie, you are not free,” said Giuliani, who was later presented with CEO America’s Founder Award.

Also presented with Founder Awards were Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson, Bruce Kovner, the Rev. Floyd Flake, and John Fund. In addition, $1,000 scholarships in the name of each recipient were donated to New York City’s School Choice Scholarship Fund; on Carlson’s behalf, the scholarship was donated to the KidsFirst Scholarship Foundation in Minneapolis.

Peter Flanigan was presented with the “Authentic American” Award for outstanding leadership in the private voucher movement. In addition, Virginia Gilder received the “Teddy Roosevelt Trustbuster Award” for her efforts to break up the government education monopoly at Albany’s Giffen Elementary.

Competition Works

The Giffen project–A Better Choice–was the focus of a “Competition Works” panel discussion at the meeting. According to Tom Carroll, ABC’s Executive Director, the program was designed to give the public schools, and Giffen in particular, “a good swift kick in the pants.”

“All we are doing is giving parents and students the ‘right of exit,'” said Carroll.

At the meeting’s final luncheon, Governor Carlson spoke of the need for school choice and what it took to get the legislation passed in Minnesota. His encouraging success story closed the Fourth Annual Founders’ Meeting on a note that promised even greater progress towards parental choice in education for the coming year.

George A. Clowes is managing editor of School Reform News. His email address is [email protected].