I don’t have kids yet, but I am enrolled in a teaching credential program and know how important it is to live near good schools. I have faith in the public education system, a definitely biased view due to my working in the public school district. With purchasing a house in the next several months on my brain, I realize that I not only need to find an affordable house in a neighborhood that I feel safe in, I also have to research the school’s in that neighborhood.
On a side note, something that I am learning about public and local schools is that two schools that are part of the same school district can vary greatly on funding. The funding comes from local property taxes, and most adults know that those vary greatly based on the quality, or perceived quality, of a neighborhood. I don’t exactly know how they figure out the amount per school, but much of the money comes from property taxes.This money allows schools to purchase materials, offer special classes and programs, and make sure there are enough books for each student. In poor or impoverished neighborhoods, there is frequently a shortage of funds available to those local schools. The students and teachers must make do with what they have, and often the students end up with the short end of the stick. (Some of the required reading for my classes specifically discusses low-income urban schools and the horrible environment they learn in.)
I need to make sure that down the road my future children have access to books, materials, and perhaps special programs like art and music. This means choosing a neighborhood with decent schools which receive adequate funding. For instance, there are many inexpensive homes for sale in a neighborhood about 8 miles east of me. This area, east of a major freeway, is economically disadvantaged, and unfortunately, there are many foreclosed homes for sale. These homes appear to be below our original price range, or what we would consider affordable. Yet I know that this is not an area I would desire to live. Eight miles may not seem very far, but socio-economically, it can mean a world of difference.
To help me narrow my neighborhood search, I found a couple of websites that help decipher which schools are considered good schools. They use ratings, parent reviews, and state test scores to rate the overall quality of the school. One website I found is called GreatSchools.com. Again, I’m not a parent yet, so I haven’t spent much time researching specific schools. However, this website might come in handy someday. Another site that is helpful for California residents is California School Ratings. This site rates the schools based on their API scores, or state test scores. Of course, test scores aren’t the only way to measure the quality of a school, but it does help narrow down the list.
This school research will help me narrow down my neighborhood search when browsing online realtor sites. Then, I can concentrate on finding homes in that neighborhood within our price range. If all fails, I could always apply for a waiver that would allow my future child to attend a higher-quality school. Many schools provide so waivers a to help economically disadvantaged students receive a better education.
Until city planners design a city where all socio-economic levels can coexist peacefully and respectfully, I don’t see a current solution to end undesirable neighborhoods. Perhaps, in the future, if cities can be more pedestrian friendly, less car-dependent, closer knit, and less grid-reliant, then we will achieve a solution closer to the utopian ideal and won’t have to worry much about property taxes or schools with insufficient funding. I can dream can’t I?