NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 15, 2010

From 1998 to 2008, the Children's Educational Opportunity Foundation funded tuition vouchers for residents of San Antonio's Edgewood Independent School District that ranged in value from $2,000 to $4,700 per year, depending on the student's grade level and whether the selected school was in the Edgewood district.  The vouchers were available to any student in Edgewood whose family chose to participate, regardless of academic ability or income.  After 2003-2004, budget limitations forced the foundation to restrict vouchers mostly to continuing students. 

Thus, unlike most voucher programs, the Edgewood program did not limit vouchers to a few low-income students in poor performing public schools, and the program was funded long enough to have measurable effects on student performance and the community.  This resulted in not only educational gains for both participating and nonparticipating students, but also economic gains for the Edgewood neighborhood, says John D. Merrifield, a professor of economics at the University of Texas at San Antonio and a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis. 

Prior to the voucher program, Edgewood enrollment was declining as students' families moved out or students enrolled in other schools.  Property values declined 12.2 percent in the three school years prior to implementation of the voucher program in 1998.  This trend was reversed after the voucher program was introduced, says Merrifield: 

  • From 1998-2001 Edgewood's property value rose 16.2 percent.
  • Compared to five other districts with similar demographics but no voucher program, Edgewood's property value gain from 1998-2001 was second highest.
  • From 1998-2005, Edgewood's property values rose 54.6 percent -- the highest among the districts compared.  

Comparing Edgewood's growth to other similar districts helps control for factors such as inflation. 

  • The number of single-family dwellings in Edgewood grew by 2.1 percent in 1998-2001, 4.9 percent over the 1998-2005 period and 7.4 percent over the decade (1998-2008) during which the voucher program was running; this was second fastest among the comparison districts in all three periods.
  • Single-family home prices increased by an average of approximately $6,500; in turn, property tax revenue rose, netting the district an extra $10.6 million. 

The Edgewood experiment shows that policymakers can reap significant economic development and educational benefits at no net fiscal cost by implementing school choice programs like universal vouchers, says Merrifield. 

Source: John D. Merrifield, "Education Vouchers Benefit Edgewood Economy," National Center for Policy Analysis, Brief Analysis No. 714, July 15, 2010. 

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