NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Evaluating The First Year Of Scholarship Program

June 16, 2000

In 1998 the Children's Educational Opportunity (CEO) Foundation offered a privately funded full tuition scholarship to any low-income student in the Edgewood Independent School District (EISD) in San Antonio, Texas, who wanted to attend another school, private or public.

During the first school year, 1998-99, the Horizon Program gave 837 scholarships to children from kindergarten through 12th grade. An evaluation of first-year results by researchers from Mathematica Policy Research and the Harvard University Program on Education Policy and Governance answers some of the major objections raised by opponents of school choice.

Opponents of voucher programs frequently argue that they will lead to "creaming," or a skimming of the best students from public schools, leaving behind poorly performing students. But the first-year evaluation found few statistically significant differences between students in the Horizon Program and those who remained in the Edgewood public schools.

Also, the evaluation found the Horizon families are remarkably similar to Edgewood public school families. The difference in average income between Horizon and public school families was only $51, mothers of voucher students completed an average of 12 years of education compared to 11 years for public school mothers, and 4 percent of Horizon mothers were receiving welfare compared with 5 percent of public school mothers.

  • When Horizon parents were asked for the single "most important reason" for choosing their child's school, almost 40 percent cited academic quality.
  • By contrast, only 11.9 percent of parents whose children stayed in public schools cited academic quality first.

A second independent evaluation due out in August 2000 will address the changes and adaptations made by the school district in response to the Horizon Program.

Source: Melanie Looney, "School Choice in San Antonio," Brief Analysis No. 326, June 16, 2000, National Center for Policy Analysis.

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