There is now a wealth of evidence that public charter schools, private schools and other school choice policies tend to improve educational outcomes, but a new study shows that they can have economic and community revitalization benefits as well.
The study from EdChoice, a nonprofit school choice organization, examined family relocation decisions for those with children who have attended the Orange County School of the Arts, or OCSA, a public charter school in Santa Ana, California, with a strong extracurricular emphasis in a variety of artistic fields, including music, theater, dance, visual arts, creative writing, digital media, film and television, and culinary arts. The school has an enrollment of more than 2,100 students in grades 7-12.
The researchers found that students' families were substantially more likely to move closer to the school, and that those who already lived close by were reluctant to move away. The effect was very similar to that of employees who move to be closer to workplaces, they noted. In addition, since student enrollment in public charters and private schools is not bound by strict geographic boundaries, "they are probably more like colleges in the way they impact their surrounding communities," the study concluded.
"When families are buying a home, one of the first questions they always ask is 'how are the schools?' The perceived quality of public education in a neighborhood has historically been a huge factor in relocation. 'Good' schools drive up property values, making it harder for lower-income families to access them," EdChoice President and CEO Robert Enlow said in a statement.
He added: "This case study shows that a quality choice school -- one where students can attend from anywhere -- actually attracted new families to a once-blighted community and helped spur urban renewal. What's happened in Santa Ana could be a roadmap for other cities looking to revitalize neighborhoods and drive economic development."
This is particularly true for OCSA because its numerous after-school arts performances and events bring friends and family into the vicinity, where they dine and shop, but other charters could have a similar stimulative effect. Since quality schools are such a magnet, this is all the more reason to encourage school choice.