More Evidence that Urbanists Should Support School Choice

MLewyn's picture

A recent article , "School Choice Programs: The Impacts on Housing Values" reviews literature relating to the impact of charter schools and various types of school choice programs on housing values.  The article discusses studies from Minnesota, North Carolina, New York City, and Vermont (among other places) and finds that the traditional American "neighborhood school" system, which locks children into nearby schools, creates a hierarchy of housing values: places with disfavored schools (as a practical matter, anyplace urban or socially diverse) experience degraded housing values, while places with highly reputed schools (usually suburbs) become more desirable. 

By contrast, the authors find that school choice programs disrupt this hierarchy.  For example, in Minnesota students can now attend schools in any school district in the state.  Even though transportation difficulties prevent many students from taking advantage of this program, property values rose in school districts with weaker academic reputations.  Similarly, in New York City the presence of charter schools and magnet schools increased values for nearby property, regardless of the prestige of nearby public schools.

These findings suggest that school choice will make areas with weaker school districts more desirable- an important finding for weak-market cities with weak public schools.   Today, parents often shun such cities because of their weak public schools.  If school choice programs of various types allow parents to stay in the city without sending their children to typical urban schools, cities will become more desirable. 


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