School Choice for an Entire District!

San Antonio, TX – An historic educational choice project announced today in San Antonio will enable, for the first time ever, thousands of families in an entire school district to exercise choice of schools. CEO Horizon, a project of the Children's Educational Opportunity Foundation of America (CEO AMERICA), CEO San Antonio (a local, privately funded voucher program), and San Antonio business leaders, is reaching out to the 14,000 'at-risk' students of the San Antonio Edgewood School District, by offering full tuition scholarships to transfer to any school their parents choose.

The program will begin with the Fall semester of this year and continue for at least 10 years, with a minimum commitment of $5 million per year. In addition to the immediate impact it will have on the local community, it offers the best model to date as to what a publicly funded voucher program will be able to achieve. As a result of the program, researchers will be assessing the implications and impact upon student performance as well as the impact upon quality and availability of public and private education options.

CEO AMERICA president Fritz Steiger said the magnitude of the program will touch many lives in a positive manner: "We are reaching out to the most "at-risk" children and offering a long term commitment to improve their educational opportunities. Our efforts are aimed at helping the entire Edgewood community and being a catalyst to improve educational quality for every child in every school."

Horizon project officials designed the program with all families in mind. "We believe choices for all parents will result in a new hope for many, better learning environments, and help ease overcrowding and other burdens currently placed on the public school system," said Steiger.

"As many students as choose to transfer and can find a school suited for their individual needs, we'll guarantee full Horizon tuition." Steiger also indicated it could take several years for every family to take advantage of the program due to limits in capacity at existing private, parochial, or public schools in the area.

CEO AMERICA is the nation's clearinghouse and umbrella organization of the privately funded school choice effort with programs in more than 30 cities across the nation. The Horizon project is the nation's first to offer fully-funded tuition vouchers for every family in an entire school district. "The Horizon project is a natural extension of what we have been doing for years with privately funded programs. The city of San Antonio, the state of Texas, and in fact, the entire nation, will get a glimpse into the future of real education reform through parental choice," Steiger said. "The Horizon program is expected to result in new private and parochial schools being started in the community as families 'shop' for a school best suited for their children's unique educational needs," said Steiger. Of additional interest, he stated, will be the impact the program will have on public school policies and outcomes.

"We believe that school choice is a critical component of realizing each child's full potential and that realization should not be limited to only those who can afford to pay for it," said Robert Aguirre, a San Antonio businessman who serves as the managing director of the San Antonio chapter of the CEO Foundation.

"The CEO Foundation has been tremendously successful in providing families with educational choices previously denied to them because of cost," continued Aguirre, who grew up in the Edgewood area. "More than $3.4 million in CEO scholarships have been awarded to 2,318 students in Bexar County since 1992, and we realized that by establishing the HORIZON scholarships, we could assist those families in our community that are the most limited in their educational options. HORIZON scholarships will benefit the students that have the most to gain, not just in their education but in their lives and the lives of their families."

Program Particulars

HORIZON scholarships are open to any student residing in the defined area, whether the student is currently enrolled in public school (as are 93.7% of the students in the area) or whether they are in a non-public school (6.3%). In order to keep the initial enrollment balanced and reflective of the community at-large, HORIZON scholarships will be awarded in this same proportion – meaning that for every 15 scholarships to students currently enrolled in public school there will be one scholarship awarded to a student enrolled in a non-public school. The only additional requirement besides residency is that the family must qualify for assistance under the income guidelines published for the Federal Free or Reduced Price Lunch Program and therefore be an "at-risk" student.

SCHOLARSHIP AMOUNT: The annual per student HORIZON scholarship for students enrolled in a school within the defined geographic area will be $3,600 for grades K-8 and $4,000 for grades 9-12. If a student wishes to enroll in an existing school outside of the defined geographic area, the scholarship award will equal 100 percent of the chosen school's published tuition rate for the 1998-99 academic year up to a maximum of $2,000 for grades K-8 and $3,500 for grades 9-12. In the case of students enrolling in a new school not previously existing, scholarships will be awarded at the in-the-area rate regardless of location.

APPLICATION PROCESS: All K-12 students residing in the defined area are eligible, if they meet the income criteria for the Federal Free or Reduced Price Lunch Program. Student application forms will be available from most non-public schools in Bexar County.

PROGRAM EVALUATION: An independent observation and evaluation of the outcomes of the CEO HORIZON program will be conducted by Dr. Paul Peterson of Harvard University. Dr. Peterson has performed extensive studies of school choice programs across the country and it is anticipated that his research findings will be published annually throughout the course of the program.