House hunters with children, or hypothetical children, almost always ask about schools. Parents want good schools for their kids. Immediately, they run into the brick wall: houses and condos in high-scoring school districts cost more than houses and condos in lower-scoring towns. Why is that?
There are two factors:
- Education is funded mainly by municipal governments. More expensive towns have a higher tax base and spend more on education.
- Children who are poor score lower than children who are middle class or rich. The reason may be where they live, not how smart they are.
This creates a self-perpetuating circle. Towns that are expensive attract middle class and rich people, who are interested in education and willing to pay for it. Then the scores rise (or stay high), attracting more middle class and rich people who are interested in education. Then the housing cost rises, attracting only richer and richer people. This has been going on for generations. That’s why, when a prospective house hunter looks at a local high school, the houses are more expensive where the school system offerings are more extensive.
Paul Reville, former Secretary of Education for Massachusetts, wrote in Education Week in June 2013: “We were going to eliminate the correlation between zip codes and educational achievement and attainment. I’m sorry to say that, two decades later, it is clear that we’ve failed.”
My state Senator, Pat Jehlen, recently published a newsletter about the minimum wage and education. Chart above was developed by her staff.