In what amounts to a private universal voucher system, the Children's Educational Opportunity (CEO) Foundation of San Antonio announced that it will provide at least $50 million over the next 10 years to give school vouchers to any interested low-income student in San Antonio's mostly Hispanic, 14,000-student Edgewood Independent School District. Families can use vouchers ranging from $2,000 to $4,000 at private and parochial schools within the district, or at public or private schools in other districts.
The program is the first in the nation to offer vouchers to all low-income students in a district, and 93 percent of Edgewood students are eligible. Program sponsors chose Edgewood because it was large enough to offer a meaningful experiment but small enough that they could include every student.
The week the program was announced, CEO's office received 400 inquiries and 170 student applications. The foundation estimates it will send 2,000 Edgewood children to private schools this fall.
Edgewood school district officials express concern over the prospect of hundreds of students leaving the public school system and say the voucher program places the very concept of public education "at risk." State Sen. Gregory Luna (D-San Antonio) called the program "another ruse to destroy public schools," and said it "declares war on public education."
He's right. School officials estimate that losing 200 students would cost the district more than $1 million. Fritz Steiger, president of CEO America Foundation, argues that the Edgewood program will give "every parent in that district a level playing field and the opportunity to make a choice. The Edgewood public school district is going to have to compete for and fight for those students."