THE Edgewood independent school district covers an unassuming part of west San Antonio, a district of fast-food joints and car-body shops, with houses that run from modest to ramshackle. It is mostly poor and mostly Hispanic, and in 1968 its government-funded public schools were so bad that a parents’ group sued the state, prompting a debate over school funding that lasted for decades. By 1998 the situation had improved. The National Education Association, America’s largest teachers’ union, said that Edgewood could be a model for other urban school districts.
Then its voucher programme started. In 1998 the Children’s Educational Opportunity Foundation, a private group, announced that it would put up $50m over the next ten years to provide vouchers for private education to any low-income Edgewood student who wanted one. The “Horizon” plan was meant to show legislators that vouchers could help students and motivate schools through competition.
Critics said the programme would take money from a school district that was poor already. One teacher wrote an angry editorial comparing Horizon to Napoleons invasion of Russia“>Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, destined for “history’s trash heap of bad ideas”.
But a report published in September [3.5MB PDF Report] by the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), a conservative think-tank, argues that the programme was a hit over its ten-year span. More than 4,000 students claimed the vouchers; their test scores jumped, and only two dropped out.