President’s Pell Grants for Kids a Flawed Idea

The State of the Union call by President Bush for Pell Grants for kids is flawed. Quite simply, it does not go far enough. A $500 scholarship for students from low and middle income families will not make much difference. A $5000 scholarship would.

According to a question and answer statement from Lamar Alexander, the reasons for these grants are sound. They are: To use the same idea that helped create the best colleges – letting money follow students to institutions of their choice – to help create the best schools; (2) To reduce inequality in educational opportunity by giving middle- and low- income children more of the same opportunities that wealthier families already have; (3) to provide more federal funds with fewer federal strings and more local control that may be used to implement the requirements of No Child Left Behind.

My only concern is the low amount of the grants. If we truly want to help these children, and I have not heard anyone say we don’t, then let’s up the ante to an amount that will actually provide for some true education.

$5,000 is the least amount that should be considered. Otherwise, Pell Grants for kids is a very fine idea.

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Posted by at 07:46 | Posted in Measure 37 | 32 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Kathryn Hickok

    I see Pell Grants for Kids as a step in the right direction of returning the power of choice in education to parents across the board, across the country.

    Here in Oregon, the Children’s Scholarship Fund-Portland has been providing a “hand up” to grade school kids from low-to-moderate-income families to attend the schools of their parents’ choice for almost ten years.

    To be eligible, families must have incomes low enough that they would qualify for the Federal Free and Reduced Price Lunch Program.

    Our CSF-Portland parents pay, on average, over HALF the cost of private/parochial school tuition themselves. (They pay $1,899 on average per child this year.) Often with more than one child in school, these parents are making a major financial commitment and sacrifice.

    Our scholarships average only $1,500 per child, but this relatively small amount often makes the difference between children attending a public school where (for whatever reason) they aren’t thriving and attending a private school where they are.

    CSF-Portland parents will do ANYTHING to help their children succeed in school and in life. That’s why they forgo “free” public education in favor of what they see is working for their kids (private and parochial schools, home schooling, Montessori, Waldorf, you name it).

    That is also why these families are so deserving of a helping hand. To them, it’s not an entitlement. They are contributing a huge amount themselves and often express their gratitude for our donors’ help.

    When parents’ incomes rise above our cutoff and they become ineligible for the scholarships, they tell us how much CSF helped them and that they hope others will benefit in their place. Their kids say they want to give back as adults. We’re so proud of our graduates now in college and pursuing careers.

    CSF-Portland scholarships are entirely privately funded by generous local donors here in Oregon. Their gifts are matched by the national Children’s Scholarship Fund in New York (, doubling their impact.

    While we engage in necessary public debates on education reform, school choice, and the best ways practically-speaking to bring those about, we can’t wait to help kids. They are growing up fast. If anyone is interested in joining us in helping kids succeed today, please do contact me!

    [email protected]
    our website:

    • Sybella

      Is this anything that can be done outside of Portland, or is it a Portland thing? I like the sounds of what you are saying.

      • Kathryn Hickok


        Thanks for asking! Would this program (or one like it) be of interest to your community?

        CSF-Portland is one of about 40 “partner programs” of the national Children’s Scholarship Fund, which provides matching challenge grants to local organizations like ours.

        In 1999, our program began with 550 children from Clackamas, Washington, and Multnomah Counties. The program was initially limited to that geographical area. However, as families have moved, we have had students in other counties, as well.

        We receive inquiries from all over Oregon and are keeping an ever-growing waiting list.

        I’ve been in contact with people active in their communities on the coast and in southern Oregon who say that families in their areas are challenged by declining industries, seasonal industries, few new job opportunities, and lack of affordable options for their children’s education to help them get out of poverty.

        We’d like to accept students from anywhere in Oregon. We know there are very deserving students everywhere from Astoria to Roseburg–we hear from their principals, pastors, and other community volunteers.

        Expansion of CSF-Portland throughout Oregon depends completely on funding. If Oregonians in other parts of the state would like to help make this possible, we would love to help them help students in their own communities.

        Our ability to apply for matching challenge grants is a special feature of the CSF-Portland program that we have to offer our donors.

        When CSF-Portland began in 1999, we received applications from the parents of 6,639 children in the Portland Metro area for those 550 slots.

        Nationwide, over 1.25 MILLION children applied for scholarships in that original 1999 round of awards. 44% of the eligible population of Baltimore applied for CSF scholarships, 33% of those eligible in Philadelphia, 33% of Washington, DC, and 29% of New York City, just to list a few cities.

        These numbers are particularly amazing because, in order to apply, parents had to have HEARD of the program on their own AND to have taken the trouble to apply. And these are some of the lowest-income people in their communities–just the people many argue don’t know what’s going on with their kids and couldn’t or wouldn’t make the sacrifices required by private schools.

        Parents want the best for their children, and we’re proud to help them achieve it!

        • Sybella

          You know, I don’t know, but I see a real need here. We are in eastern Oregon. Our town is going down because of employment. Our schools are down to 4 days a week. I’ll take your information. In fact I made a copy of it. I’ll look around and see what I can drum up. How can I contact you?

          • Kathryn Hickok

            Please contact me at [email protected].

            More information about CSF-Portland is at

            I’d be delighted to be in touch, and we’d like to help in any way we can.

          • Sybella

            Thank you so much, I’ll be in touch and also check out the wesite you gave me.

  • eagle eye

    Like the Bush-Kennedy No Child Left Behind Act, the institution of K-12 vouchers at the federal level would be another dramatic extension of the power of the federal government over education. It may serve supposedly “conservative” goals for a little while, but fairly soon it will be taken over by the educational establishment and the liberals. There is absolutely no reason I can see why the federal government has to be involved in K-12 vouchers. If the legislatures or the people of the individual states want them, fine, let them vote them in. So far, there hasn’t been much enthusiasm displayed by the states, look at the catastrophic failure of vouchers in two initiatives in California, one in Oregon, and other places. That is no reason at all for the federal government to step in. The best thing would be to butt out. If this is Bush’s last-ditch push to establish his legacy, better to let the clock run out, the sooner it’s over the better.

    • Jerry

      I would disagree. I say precisely because the states have not done it is why the feds should. At least this way we can try it out and see if it works.
      You know who keeps defeating these at the state level. It is the entrenched status quo types.
      I would prefer that the federal government not be involved in education at all, but it is too late for that, so if they can come up with something that helps let’s give it a try.

      • eagle eye

        Blame the unions for voucheres losing 2-1 if you like, I think you’re kidding yourself. When it’s that big, it’s because the people don’t like the idea.

        Anyhow, it’s not going any further at the federal level, Congress isn’t biting on this at all, see today’s Wall St. Journal.

        Might as well try again with an initiative in Oregon. But I think it’s a lost cause.

  • eagle eye

    Here’s an interesting article by Sol Stern in City Journal on why school curriculum reform is more important than school choice:

    and some comments pro and con:

    I used to be strongly in favor of vouchers, now I’m much less enthusiastic, and in any case, I don’t think they’re going anywhere.

  • Bozo

    Hmmm, meanwhile Europe is returning to electing pro-American leaders after their failed Socialistic programs have bankrupted their continent (these universal entitlement programs such as Health Care and this insanity of $5000 per child)… we have people in this country pushing for the very same things that do not work elsewhere…

    So where is the $5000 a child going to come from…. what is the trade off?

  • Jerry

    How about the money comes as a direct tax offset to their property taxes?
    The trade off is that the public schools won’t get the money if they don’t get the kid.
    That is a plan. Finally giving to the poor what rich people have always had – school choice.

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