The Children's Scholarship Fund aims to maximize educational opportunity for all children: for those in need by offering tuition assistance in grades K-8 for alternatives to faltering conventional schools, and for all children by supporting and cultivating education reform and parental choice efforts.
In the Beginning: In 1998, Ted Forstmann and the late John Walton launched Children's Scholarship Fund (CSF), a program that would give 40,000 low-income children across the country the chance to attend private schools for four years. CSF received 1.25 million applications for the initial 40,000 scholarships, showing the intense demand for choice in education. Now, more than a decade later, CSF has become an established, well-respected charity with a network of partner programs and generous donors nationwide. Recently, Charity Navigator awarded CSF a 4-star rating (their highest rating) for strong financial health and commitment to accountability and transparency. Since our inception, CSF has provided scholarships worth $885 million, changing the lives of 185,000 low-income children.
Currently: For the 2020-21 school year, Children's Scholarship Fund and its partner programs are funding scholarships to more than 23,600 children attending private and parochial elementary schools across the country.
- Dr. Eric Bettinger and a team from Stanford University recently analyzed college enrollment, persistence, and graduation rates of a sample of more than 5,000 Children’s Scholarship Fund (CSF) alumni who received scholarships from CSF New York and CSF of Omaha during the period from 1999 to 2010 and were old enough to have graduated from high school. Despite coming from socio-economic backgrounds associated with much lower rates of college enrollment and graduation, CSF alumni enroll and persist in college and earn degrees at rates similar to or higher than the general population and much higher than low-income students generally, according to the study.
- A Friedman Foundation study of CSF Baltimore alumni found that Baltimore scholarship recipients had a 97 percent graduation rate and 84 percent enrolled in college.
- In August, 2012, a study by Matthew M. Chingos of the Brookings Institution and Harvard University's Paul E. Peterson found that African-American students in New York who won and used a scholarship to attend private school starting in Kindergarten were 24 percent more likely to attend college than those who applied but didn't win a scholarship.
- A multi-year study shows that 96 percent of CSF Philadelphia students graduate from high school versus just 62 percent of their public school counterparts. The study also showed that recipients are scoring 10 percent higher on standardized tests than other low-income inner-city children.
- Our partner program in the San Francisco Bay Area, The BASIC Fund, reported similarly high graduation rates of 89-94 percent compared with graduation rates of only 73 percent in San Francisco public schools, and 43 percent in nearby Oakland public schools.
- In a survey, we found that 92 percent of CSF New York's 8th grade class of 2010 graduated on time in 2014 (compared with the NYC public school graduation rate of 64.2 percent), and 90 percent of those students are now enrolled in college.
- A CSF study in Charlotte found that 97 percent of CSF recipients graduated from high school in four years, compared to an overall graduation rate of 66.1 percent for Charlotte public schools.
- Harvard evaluations of our program in three cities (NYC; Washington, DC; and Dayton, Ohio) showed that scholarships narrow the achievement gap between Black and White students in math and reading by about half.
- Data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that students who had attended private school in 8th grade were twice as likely as those who attended public school to have completed a bachelors or higher degree by their mid-twenties (52 percent versus 26 percent).
True Value: But the truth is that CSF awards lead to more than just test scores. They empower parents and grandparents to choose a private or parochial school, providing them with a larger stake in the child's education, and strengthening the family in the process. The scholarships also stabilize enrollments at private schools that provide a safe and academically sound environment in tough inner-city neighborhoods, increasing education options for everyone.