Each spring, low-income Baltimore families who have filled out the proper forms and applied for a scholarship through Children’s Scholarship Fund Baltimore anxiously wait to hear the news. Maybe their K-8 son or daughter will be able to go to the private school of their choice. After the paperwork is filed, CSFB calculates the number of graduating 8th graders and begins the process of informing families who have been selected to replace these graduating students. This is what we call CSFB “Lottery Day.”
It is an absolute joy to be part of this process. Knowing how important school choice was for my children, I can relate to the excitement – and relief – that a parent feels upon learning their child has been awarded a scholarship. This means they can choose the type of school and education that works best for them.
For the Lottery Day, our program administrator, Joanne Sanders, first enters the number of students that we can accommodate. This year, 34 students will be awarded a scholarship. An algorithm then randomly selects families from our waiting list.
We send letters to the selected families to let them know they have been chosen and to request their tax documentation, supporting that they meet our income criteria. Basically, if their income meets the standard for the Free and Reduced lunch program, they qualify.
The parent or guardian then schedules a time to meet with us for an intake interview. This is where we fully explain the funding process, answer questions and discuss school selection. Often, parents of multiple children already have one child in a private or charter school and want to enroll another child. In other cases, parents are interested in discussing schools that meet their selection criteria – school location in relation to their workplace, learning style, class sizes and/or after school programs. Sometimes the choice is clear and the parent is able to immediately identify their first choice of school.
Some parents learn about CSFB from their neighbors, faith community or preschool, and have a basic understanding of our process. Others are absolutely shocked to learn they can receive support without jumping through hoops. Our scholarships are not based on grades. And students have many school options available to them.
CSFB’s Lottery Day is that winning ticket for families in Baltimore who, if selected, can give their children the chance to win big!