Which social implications have the most immediate and strongest impact on a child’s development and well-being? First are the child’s family circumstances, and second is the ranking of their school. Learn4Life’s National Advisory Board Member and Director of the Center for Education Policy at the Heritage Foundation Dr. Lindsey Burke penned a recent commentary about where a child lives and its direct impact on their prospects of upward mobility.
The extent to which families can select schools is largely determined by the extent to which they can afford to select their neighborhood. A survey by real estate firm Redfin found that families paid an average of $50 more per square foot for houses in highly rated school districts. In one case they found a house priced $130,000 more than a similar home less than a mile away – the difference being the better school district.
If the school in a child’s neighborhood is dysfunctional, families have very few options. Many of the country’s largest school districts give families no alternative to the nearest public school. They offer no charter schools, no school vouchers – no school choice programs of any kind. Instead, kids are consigned to a dysfunctional school.
When government assigns children to failing schools, it is saddling those kids with lifetime opportunity costs. But when school choice is present, students attend schools that meet their learning needs. And studies show that when students avail themselves of these options, they develop better both academically and as citizens (as measured by things like political tolerance and civic engagement).
We must separate housing from schooling, through universal education choice.