Housing abundance and public school choice boost opportunities for K-12 in California – San Bernardino Sun

Real estate prices in California have been troubling residents for years. The state is home to four of the five counties with the highest average home prices in the United States, and unless more supply is built to meet demand, these prices will remain.

It's not just adults who are affected by the housing crisis. High real estate prices hurt students desperate to access quality public education. This link provides housing wealth advocates, educational choice advocates, and California policymakers an opportunity to work together to keep the California dream alive.

Many assume that public education is free and accessible to all, but residential designation, a common policy in most states, dictates that a student's home address determines which traditional public school they attend, reducing the actual cost of quality public education are obscured. If a family wants to send their child to a public school in Santa Clara County or San Mateo County, they can do so without being charged a direct payment by the school. But they would have to live in a school district where the average price of a home is probably over a million and a half dollars – more than all the tuition a school could reasonably charge.

Open enrollment could be a solution. Currently, California allows families to transfer to other schools in their assigned district, but limits their options if they want to send their students to a neighboring school district. In fact, California's District of Choice program all too often gives school districts in the state – rather than parents – the ability to decide whether a student can attend a school in their district.

State lawmakers should rewrite the program to allow every California student, regardless of where they live, to attend a public school that is best for them, as long as space is available. Yet simply expanding public school choice ignores a fundamental part of how families choose schools. Academic research and surveys from EdChoice Morning Consult suggest that “location” is the number one reason parents enroll their children in each type of school, surpassing other factors such as a safe environment, academic quality, and affordability by more than twenty points.

Still, high real estate prices deter many Americans, particularly in California, from moving to a desired location or a neighborhood with better public schools. For example, the Senate Joint Commerce Committee found that a ZIP code “with the highest quality (A+) public elementary school has a median home price four times ($486,104) higher than the average neighborhood with the lowest quality (D or.) public elementary schools “($122,061).” But in cities like Houston, where lower zoning limits make it easier to build housing, the price difference for attending a quality public school is significantly smaller than in cities with restrictive zoning laws like San Francisco.

In short, the less restrictive the zoning, the smaller the difference in housing costs and school test scores.

Anna Harden

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