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Edgewood Texas Voucher Program
From David W. Kirkpatrick (October 2, 2009)
Senior Education Fellow
U.S. Freedom Foundation www.freedomfoundation.us
An Evaluation of the CEO Horizon, 1998-2008, Edgewood (Texas) Tuition Voucher Program
Dr. John Merrifield, Univ. of Texas, San Antonio, & Dr. Nathan Gray, Young Harris College
The CEO (Children‘s Education Opportunity) Foundation funded tuition vouchers for Edgewood (Texas) school district residents from 1998 to 2008. All applicants that met the district residency requirement got vouchers through the sixth year, 2003-04. To stay within the $52.4 million budget, the 2004-05 to 2007-08 voucher funding had to be confined to continuing voucher users.
Conservative estimates based on two sets of ‘control' districts found that the voucher program had significant positive impacts on single- and multi-family housing numbers and market value, commercial development, EISD test scores, EISD graduation rates, EISD school performance, and on the graduation and college attendance rates of voucher users. EISD academic performance and enrollment peaked during the EVP'‘s (Edgewood Voucher Program) early years when growth in voucher use was the most rapid. Indeed, in all but two of the last eight years of the EVP, voucher use and EISD enrollment moved in the same direction. That counter-intuitive result suggests that ‘school choice' is a direct and indirect growth magnet, and that loss of choice fosters exodus. No negative impacts were found.
An estimated $6500 EVP-caused rise in the value of an average EISD single family dwelling, alone, netted EISD an extra $10.6 million in additional local property tax revenue. Accelerated EISD graduation rate increase relative to control districts netted the EISD at least an additional $4.74 million in state per pupil payments.
Consistent with the throttling back of the EVP after 2003-2004, and the temporary nature of the program, most of the effects were stronger earlier in the program.
The selective student recruiting claim persists among EVP critics despite long-standing general, and EISD-specific, data directly refuting that claim. This study provides additional strong indirect refutation. The EISD's rapid rates of academic improvement from 1998-99 to 2003-2004 would not have been possible if it had lost its best and brightest students to private schools. The EISD findings and general data from numerous other studies are consistent with the theory that says parents seek vouchers for struggling students.
The effects of the EVP add to our understanding of school choice programs that level the playing field mostly among the existing choices. The key characteristics of the EVP place it between the narrowly targeted and restriction-laden programs that have been widely studied, and the large, unrestricted programs that are still largely untested. Universality and lack of price control probably caused the EVP effects to be generally stronger than the effects of targeted programs, and the EVP yielded significant economic development effects that were absent, or unnoticed, for the more restriction-laden programs.
Probably the biggest news out of this report for general consumption is the strong economic development effect of a universal school choice program. States, cities, counties, or school districts can use a no-price-control, universal voucher program to attract of families and businesses at no net fiscal cost - probably some savings - and also improve their school system.
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For further information contact Dr. John Merrifield, University of Texas at San Antonio, at John.Merrifield@utsa.edu
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Copyright 2009 David W. Kirkpatrick
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Douglassville, Pennsylvania 19518-9240
Phone: (610) 689-0633