Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Forstmann's Not So Little Idea

A great article in the WSJ about Ted Forstmann and The Children's Scholarship Fund:

What is the single most frustrating issue in American politics? The deficit? Nah. Entitlement reform? A cakewalk. The Republican Party's presidential nominee? A day in the park. It's this: Reforming the nation's failing inner-city schools.

When in 1999 Ted Forstmann started the Children's Scholarship Fund with John Walton, he thought it was a good idea that might last about four years. The short version of the good idea was that CSF would raise private funds to give scholarships to inner-city students, whose parents also would contribute money toward tuition at a private school of their choice. The notion was that CSF would offer a helping hand until larger reforms emerged to repair an obviously failing public education system.

…Mr. Forstmann thought the failure of the education status quo was so obvious and the need for change so dire (he called it "an appeal to the moral middle of America") that change of some sort would come soon to American public education. Needless to say, he was wrong. Change did not come to public, inner-city education. The teachers unions won't allow it, and the pols in the party they support value incumbency's power more than anyone's notion of a moral crisis.

…Mr. Forstmann has long argued that all the money dumped into public education budgets misses the element most crucial to the schools' success: active parental involvement. His solution to getting them in the game has been requiring the parents to contribute between 25% and 75% of the scholarship award, based on need. That's it. The parents can pick any private school they desire. Many go straight to neighborhood parochial schools, once the sturdy adjunct to many urban public systems. Asked how they assure the quality of the choices, Scholarship Fund President Darla Romfo says, "We don't decide what is a good school; they do." And if they don't like that school, they're free to switch the scholarship to another. 


Forstmann's Not So Little Idea

Ted Forstmann put his money behind the missing element in inner-city education: committed parents.


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