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Cristo Rey Network Awarded $1.6 Million from Walton Family Foundation
Posted 04/11/2012 01:32PM


Chicago, Ill., April 11, 2012 – Today the Cristo Rey Network announced that the Walton Family Foundation is investing $1.6 million in Cristo Rey with the goal of doubling the number of member schools across the country. In addition to this investment, the Foundation will be providing access to start up grants to new Cristo Rey schools through the Network using a proposal review process.  If the school is awarded a grant, the Cristo Rey Network will offer the school a five-year $375,000 loan that can be forgiven if the school meets enrollment, financial sustainability, and intermediate student performance benchmarks. With 14 projected new schools, Cristo Rey will be eligible for an additional $5,250,000 in start-up grants. With 25 schools currently in operation or approved for opening this fall, the grant will allow the Cristo Rey Network to (1) expand the Network’s efforts to create new, high performing, urban schools and (2) provide critical startup capital to new high schools opening in states that have either vouchers or education tax credits.

The Walton Family Foundation’s investment will accelerate Cristo Rey Network’s vision and growth plan.  In light of the enormous need for quality education options, the Network is working toward 50 schools by 2022, serving 25,000 inner-city students who do not have access to a quality, college preparatory education.  The Network has identified several cities that would be ideal candidates for a new Cristo Rey high school.  

“Today many parents choose Cristo Rey for their children’s education, and we want to help make this quality school choice available to even more families,” said Bruno V. Manno, Senior Advisor for the Systemic K-12 Education Reform Focus Area. When all parents have the ability to choose quality schools for their children, a competitive dynamic emerges that can inspire the broader public schools system to improve, helping transform public education in our nation.”

Data collected from Cristo Rey Network member schools demonstrates that the most vulnerable and at-risk youth in America succeed in enrolling in college when given a high quality, college preparatory high school educational experience. According to the National Student Clearinghouse, for the classes of 2008-2010, 84% of Cristo Rey graduates have enrolled in college and 88% of these are on course to graduate. These rates are nearly twice that of peers from the same socio-economic background.

“Our success in the past ten years has been made possible by several key investors, the Cassin Educational Initiative Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in particular,” remarked Cristo Rey Network President and CEO Robert Birdsell. “We are grateful to kick-off our new decade of growth with the Walton Family Foundation as our lead partner.”

Cristo Rey Network schools provide low-income families with an affordable, quality educational option, utilizing a sustainable revenue model that does not rely solely on traditional fundraising or government funding.

To fund the schools and provide a college preparatory education, every student works five days each month in an entry-level, white collar job with the fee for their work applied to their tuition costs.  The Corporate Work Study Program not only provides students with the knowledge and skills to succeed in college and the modern workforce, but also gives hope to low-income students who thought college and economic security was only a dream. This year, Cristo Rey Network students across the nation will earn $35 million toward their education.

Given recent school choice legislation in a number of states, Cristo Rey high schools opening in choice markets will supplement revenue from the Corporate Work Study Program with private school vouchers and education tax credits.

About the Cristo Rey Network®:
The Cristo Rey Network is comprised of 24 high schools that provide a quality, college preparatory education to 6,900 urban young people who live in communities with limited educational options. Most of our students qualify for the federal free or reduced lunch program. Member schools utilize a rigorous academic model, supported with effective instruction, to prepare students with a broad range of academic abilities for college. Cristo Rey Network schools employ an innovative Corporate Work Study Program that provides students with real world work experiences. Every student works five full days a month to fund the majority of his or her education, gain job experience, grow in self-confidence, and realize the relevance of going to school. Learn more at

About the Walton Family Foundation and K-12 Education Reform:  
Driven by the urgent need to dramatically raise student achievement, particularly in low-income neighborhoods, the Walton Family Foundation has invested more than $1 billion to date in initiatives that expand parental choice and equal opportunity in education. Empowering parents to choose quality schools, regardless of type - traditional public, private or public charter school - will help spur the bold transformation of our national K-12 system of public education. Our nation’s children will only reach their potential in today’s global economy by having access to a high-quality, publicly funded education. Visit the foundation at

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