Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Next Say Yes to Education victim; "Cleveland schools edge closer to free college for every grad"

"The Cleveland school district has cleared the early hurdles toward a partnership with Say Yes to Education, a national program that offers intense support for students through high school and pays their tuition for college or trade school.

If the program picks Cleveland, the partnership's goal would be to guarantee free tuition as early as 2018 for every Cleveland school district graduate, regardless of family income, at any state university, or at participating school in other states.

...Say Yes would provide a $15 million gift to the city, along with 30 years of experience of giving tuition grants. Cleveland, for its part, would need to find local donations - likely more than $100 million - to make the scholarships last.

Say Yes would also require commitments from the city, county, local hospitals, companies and service agencies to provide support - increased preschool, social services, tutoring, after school and summer programs - to students in every city school.

That could include placing a social worker in every school and providing more health care to students, an expansion to every school of  the so-called "wraparound" social services the district and partners now provide at the neediest schools.

...District CEO Eric Gordon and other partners in the effort said the program would be a "game-changer" for the city, if it works out.

...Whether Say Yes to Education will pick Cleveland is still to be determined. Cleveland has passed some early evaluations, but the program has not committed to anything.

...Weiss' staff only select cities that have a local commitment to making the plan sustainable and to provide ongoing support to students, both before graduation and even while at college.

...the district and city spent nine months having conversations with Say Yes staff before Cleveland and Louisville, KY, were invited to submit detailed applications late last year.

..."We're now just waiting to see if the Say Yes board is going to select us or Louisville - or neither," Gordon said.

...Though Syracuse became the first full city to be part of Say Yes in 2008, it struggled to raise the full $30 million endowment. Just this month, local donations topped $10 million and the state kicked in $20 million to finish it.

...As of January, that city had raised $23 million of the $33 million it needs to support the first ten years of scholarships. It had also raised just $12 million of its $100 million long-term endowment.

...school board member Denise Link added,  "The community's already trying to quietly raise these dollars."