Children First grants make school choice a reality for low-income families | Edvance Christian Schools Association
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Children First grants make school choice a reality for low-income families

Written on March 23rd, 2009

March 31 deadline to apply for this year’s grants

Children First provides low-income families grants for independent school education to empower parents to choose the right education for their children.

The Children First: School Choice Trust is currently accepting applications until March 31. The grants are awarded based on financial need and cover half the cost of tuition to a maximum of $4,000.

“We decided that low-income families really are the most in need of some support to fully exercise this choice and when we took a look at the independent schools in Ontario and the different tuition rates we really felt that helping low-income families would be in our priority area,” says Michael Thomas, Children First program director.

Each year the organization has an application process for its grants, which are available for Ontario students attending an independent school in junior kindergarten to Grade 8. Eligible households have low assets and an income that is not more than twice the Basic Needs Index poverty line. Applicants are put in a lottery to determine who receives the grants.

Families who are awarded grants choose which independent school their child will attend, including Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (OACS) member schools.

Children First is currently supporting 900 students. Families can renew their grant each year until the student graduates Grade 8. With students graduating or families moving out of province grant spots open up each year.

“We usually look at between 200-300 new students that we are able to offer new grants to each year,” Thomas says, adding the average cost of tuition is another factor for how many grants are available.

Last year there were more than 5,000 grant applicants. The range of applications is 4,000 to 7,000.

Thomas says they are anxious to see what the economy might do to applications this year. While they are unsure if the economic climate will increase or decrease the number of applicants there may be more low-income families who experience difficulty paying their half of the school tuition, he notes.

“We are curious if families are going to have trouble paying their half of the tuition … and we’ll know if we offer families grants and they can’t accept them because things have changed so much on their end,” says Thomas.

They will try to get some anecdotal evidence of any impact the economy has to inform their policy decisions and ensure Children First can continue to serve families, he says.

Children First is Canada’s first privately funded program to aid families to increase their education choices. Founded in 2003, the program is made possible by the Fraser Institute and donors.

To learn more or apply for a Children First grant, visit www.childrenfirstgrants.ca.