Expanding school options – $50M in scholarships

In an effort to provide an alternative to public education, The Children’s Scholarship Fund has announced 7,500 partial scholarships worth $50 million for poor children in New York City to attend parochial and private schools, the New York Times reports.

The fund was co-founded by billionaire financier Theodore J. Forstmann and Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, who each donated $50 million and raised $80 million more to offer poor children a private school education.

The latest scholarships – like previous awards from the fund – were awarded by lottery from among 166,000 applicants who had not previously received money.

The new scholarships, paid for mostly by Mr. Forstmann, aim to counter what he calls the “government monopoly” in elementary and secondary education. He wants to establish a system to allow parents to send their children to any school with taxpayer money.

Forstmann says his plan would raise the quality of education by engendering competition between religious, secular, private, for-profit and other schools.

About 92 percent of the New York City children who receive aid from the Children’s Scholarship Fund attend church-affiliated or religious schools, about two-thirds of them catholic, the Times says.

Forstmann said his intention is not to promote a religious education, but those are the only current alternatives to public school.

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