School Choice through Housing
No one bats an eye when you tell them you prefer buying one house over another because of the local school district. Obviously finding a good school for your child is important and moving into district boundaries is one way to effectively “pick” a school, albeit an expensive way. This is widely accepted, but opportunities that would allow Missouri families to stay in their current homes and communities—saving on the cost of moving—and have their child attend a school of their choice are barely available.
Nationally, 20 percent of parents surveyed in a recent National Center for Education Statistics report moved to a neighborhood for a public school (page 79). That’s one fifth of parents who are willing to relocate their family for a quality education, including in Missouri.
Moving across district lines can be particularly expensive when you’re moving into a high-performing school district. A 2013 analysis from Redfin looked at price differences among homes in a lower-performing school district (as measured by test scores) compared to a higher-performing school district. It found that homes nearly identical in size cost about $50 more per square foot in higher-performing districts. Some areas had a $130,000 price increase for a similar home just across the school district line. This is a significant barrier for families trying to access quality schools.
Not every family has the option to move for a school. Options like charter schools, education savings accounts, and even course access can provide families access to better education without the costly and disruptive process of moving. Attending a good school should be an option for every family in Missouri, regardless of where they live.