The Brookings Institute recently released a study (pdf) on the cost of housing in good school districts. The study was of particular interest to me because of a case I worked on in law school dealing with the inequality of public school funding. Basically, because schools are funded in large part from real estate taxes, wealthy school districts tend to spend more per student than lower income school districts. We claimed that such disparity was unconstitutional; we lost.
The Brookings Institute study found that “home values are $205,000 higher on average in the neighborhoods of high-scoring versus low-scoring schools. Near high-scoring schools, typical homes have 1.5 additional rooms and the share of housing units that are rented is roughly 30 percentage points lower than in neighborhoods near low-scoring schools.”
Here are some of the additional findings from the study:
- Nationwide, the average low-income student attends a school that scores at the 42nd percentile on state exams, while the average middle/high-income student attends a school that scores at the 61st percentile on state exams.
- Northeastern metro areas with relatively high levels of economic segregation exhibit the highest school test-score gaps between low-income students and other students
- Across the 100 largest metropolitan areas, housing costs an average of 2.4 times as much, or nearly $11,000 more per year, near a high-scoring public school than near a low-scoring public school.
- Large metro areas with the least restrictive zoning have housing cost gaps that are 40 to 63 percentage points lower than metro areas with the most exclusionary zoning.
The report suggests that low income students attend lower quality schools as compared to middle/high income students. The problem is that the quality of the school is based on standardized test scores. Those scores, however, do not always reflect the quality of the school.
For example, one study found a correlation between income and test results. The higher the family income, the higher the test scores. And other studies show that divorce can have a negative effect on a student’s performance.