Archive for April, 2011

Co-Founder of CSF of Omaha Remembered

CSF of Omaha Co-Founder and owner of Performance Automotive Group Tal Anderson is remembered in the current issue of Automotive News.

In the article, former CSF of Omaha executive director Judy Tamisiea recalls Tal Anderson’s tireless efforts to fundraise for scholarships and also the joy he took in meeting the children who benefited.

“Tal had an almost effortless way about raising money and making people feel good about giving,” said Judy Tamisiea, recently retired executive director of the Children’s Scholarship Fund of Omaha. “He would call me three times a week and say: ‘What can I do?’ and I would say ‘Tal, don’t you have enough to do running all those car dealerships?’ He was an amazing volunteer.”

More than a decade after its inception, CSF of Omaha has put more than 18,000 children through private elementary school, raising more than $17 million along the way. This year, the group is serving more than 2,000 children.

Anderson, who passed away in 2009, was also a member of the national Children’s Scholarship Fund board of directors.

City Journal Highlights Catholic Schools

In the latest City Journal, Sol Stern and Patrick McCloskey argue for more investment in Catholic schools, which provide a high-quality education for many low-income children in urban areas. Read it here!

From Stern:

“How much is it worth to New York to retain schools that are dealing with questions so essential to our society? It is painfully obvious that without a rescue effort, the number of Catholic schools in neighborhoods like Harlem will continue to shrink.”

From McCloskey:

“We risk seeing the whole system collapse, perhaps leaving behind some elite schools in affluent areas and a few in disadvantaged ones. The public should be deeply worried about that scenario. As research since the 1980s has shown, Catholic schools do a stellar job of educating the urban poor; in New York City, for instance, parochial students consistently outscore their public school counterparts on city and state tests. Most remarkably, the more disadvantaged the students, the better they perform relative to their public school peers.”

Creighton Basketball Player Credits CSF of Omaha

Last week, CSF of Omaha celebrated its 8th annual awards luncheon, where Creighton University men’s basketball coach, Greg McDermott, was the guest speaker.

McDermott, however, had a special guest of his own to introduce. Creighton basketball player Josh Jones got a scholarship from CSF of Omaha as a fourth-grader at Jesuit Middle School in Omaha, and he says the school prepared him well. Early on, Jones learned to be well-behaved, because good behavior was rewarded with extra time on the basketball court!

Bluejays guard Josh Jones is a former CSF of Omaha scholarship recipient.

Now Jones is a management major as well as guard for the Bluejays, and he will graduate from Creighton in 2012. He expressed his gratitude towards CSF of Omaha for his scholarship, and also a wish that more children could get the same access to education that he got.

“I had friends who had the potential, but not the opportunity,” he said. “I wish more inner-city kids who have the talent and the mind-set to do positive things would get the opportunity that I did.”

This school year, CSF of Omaha is serving more than 2,000 children. You can read more about the CSF of Omaha event here and visit their website here.

At the luncheon, CSF of Omaha board chairman Kurth Brashear (l) with Jovann Harrington, a CSF of Omaha student who was honored with a Challenger Award, and Coach Greg McDermott, Creighton University’s men’s basketball coach.

Ascension School: A Beacon on the West Side

It was a bright and crisp morning on Manhattan’s Upper West Side today as CSF paid a visit to Ascension School, where 50 CSF Scholars (one-sixth of the student body) attend.

This school, a beacon in the neighborhood for almost a hundred years, welcomes a diverse student body and offers great academics and after-school activities in a stable, caring environment.

Spring has sprung at Ascension School

Ascension students are no slouches when it comes to foreign languages. First to fourth-graders are learning Chinese, and the older children in grades 5-8 switch to Spanish lessons. And not to be left out, the Pre-K and Kindergarteners are learning French!

Chinese-themed artwork lines the hallways at Ascension, where children in grades 1-4 receive regular Chinese language instruction.

Meanwhile, they also fit in science fairs, art lessons, and even ballroom dancing. The school’s early children education program is in such high demand it has a waiting-list. And while the classrooms have smartboards and netbooks, there is also a dedicated computer lab.

Seventh-grader Eric S. is just one of the lucky CSF Scholars who attend Ascension School. When we spoke to his mother, Veronica, she told us she is very happy with Eric’s progress. His favorite subject is math, and he also enjoys playing baseball and taking guitar lessons through the school’s music program.

CSF Scholar Eric is a 7th grader at Ascension School

Even though Veronica herself works in the public school system, she decided Ascension would be a better fit for Eric.

“He is a quiet kid,” she explained. “I didn’t want to put him in public school. I’ve seen first-hand how kids withdraw because of the setting. I didn’t want him to be one of them,” Veronica said. “We are very happy to be part of the CSF family and we are extremely thankful for all your support.”

After seeing how impressive Ascension School is, we know Eric is getting a great educational foundation that will serve him well in high school and beyond. Good luck to Eric and all the other CSF Scholars at Ascension. Keep up the good work!

Yes to DC Opportunity Scholarships, No to government shutdown

Great news for the Washington, DC families who are sending their children to private school with publicly-funded Opportunity Scholarships!

Friday night’s eleventh-hour agreement between Democrats and Republicans that averted the government shutdown also reauthorized the D.C. scholarship program for five more years.

Although the House of Representatives had passed a bill last month to allow the program to continue, it was uncertain that the bill would gain support in the Senate. However, House Leader John Boehner, a long-time supporter of parental choice, insisted that continuing the scholarship program be part of the Friday night budget agreement.

Now the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program is safe, so the children currently using the scholarships will be allowed to remain in their private schools, but also the opportunity will be extended to new families who want to send their children to DC private schools.

Read more about the Opportunity Scholarship Program at the National Review Online and the Washington Post, and watch a video from John Boehner which includes testimony from Lesly A., an 8th grader who’s using an OSP award to attend Sacred Heart School in Washington.

Moskowitz and Rhee on the Supreme Court decision

By CSF President Darla Romfo

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a panel discussion featuring Eva Moskowitz and Michelle Rhee, two of the country’s leading education reformers. Eva founded the Success Charter Network, and Michelle, the former Washington, DC schools chancellor, has founded a new education advocacy group, Students First.

During the Q & A session, I had the opportunity to ask Eva Moskowitz about this week’s Supreme Court decision (which upheld the tuition tax credit program in Arizona) and its importance for educational freedom and parental choice.

Not surprisingly, Eva, who has long been ecumenical about supporting all forms of parental choice, was very supportive of the decision. She said she is in favor of excellence in education across the board, regardless of whether the delivery system is a zoned public school, a public charter school, or a private school. Eva stressed the urgency of getting children a good education now, because even the youngest children have trouble catching up if they fall behind because of a poor teacher or an ineffective school.

However, I was very pleasantly surprised when Michelle Rhee made a point of adding to Eva’s response. Michelle said that as a lifelong Democrat, she originally did not agree with vouchers or other forms of parental choice that allowed public funds to be used to educate children in private schools. However, her experience in the D.C. public schools forced her to rethink her position. She spoke about meeting struggling families who had tried their best to navigate the public system to find a good school for their children, but who had failed to win spots at high-performing charter schools, or at open seats at public schools in more affluent parts of the city.

Michelle underscored Eva’s point about the urgent need for each child to get the best education, even while we work towards long-term efforts to improve all schools. As she said, telling a needy parent to wait five years isn’t going to help her child.

Realizing that she couldn’t force parents to send their children to schools she wouldn’t send her own daughters to, she asked, “How could I sit there and deny these families a voucher to a Catholic school where they’d get a great education?”

She went on to add that she asked people how they felt watching the movie “Waiting for Superman” when one of the children had to leave Catholic school because her mother couldn’t pay the tuition. And when people told her they wanted to write a check to cover the tuition, she replied, “That’s a voucher, honey!”

I was very encouraged to hear such an open approach to making education better for many more families. At CSF, we do what Eva and Michelle were talking about. We provide scholarships that allow parents to give their children a quality education now, when they need it the most. Tax credit programs could allow a program like CSF to go to scale. For example, while CSF is helping almost 26,500 children nationwide, a tax credit program in Florida allows 33,000 children in that state alone to attend private schools.

I can only hope that more reformers and public officials will join Eva Moskowitz and Michelle Rhee and open up educational opportunities to many more children.

Supreme Court Says Yes to AZ Tax Credits

Earlier today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Arizona tuition tax credit program does not violate constitutional separation of church and state.

The Cato Institute’s Andrew Coulson is calling for a wider adoption of tax credit programs to fund school choice following today’s decision.

“With this ruling, the way forward for the school choice movement is clearer than it has ever been. Education tax credits — both the scholarship form operating in Arizona and the direct form operating in Illinois and Iowa — allow for universal access to the education marketplace without forcing any citizen to subsidize instruction that violates their convictions. No other school choice system offers that advantage and it is an advantage that is central to the values of our nation.”

The tax credit program allows Arizona residents to receive a dollar to dollar tax credit (up to $500, or $1,000 for married couples) for all gifts to organizations providing scholarships to private schools. More than 27,000 children in Arizona are attending private school through the tax credit program this year. And another 3,600 Arizona children benefit from a corporate tax credit program also.

You can read the full Supreme Court opinion here.