• School vouchers seen driving home values
     | April 22,2014

    An academic study claims school choice increases property values.

    “School Vouchers and Home Prices: Premiums in School Districts Lacking Public Schools” concludes that homes in towns that have high school choice sell for 5.9 percent more than comparable homes in similar towns that have an assigned high school.

    The study looked at single-home transactions during a three-year period, from April 1, 2009, through March 2012, and excluded sales of condominiums, townhouses and mobile homes. The study also looked at property transactions with a minimum purchase price of $25,000 and a maximum of $2.5 million.

    The study included 2,933 transactions, with 8.6 percent of them in towns with school choice.

    Study co-author David M. Harrison, a professor of finance at Texas Tech University who taught for nine years at the University of Vermont, said Vermont’s economy and demographics made it an ideal location to study the correlation between school choice and property values.

    “We thought Vermont would be a unique laboratory for this study,” said Harrison, who wrote the study with Susanne E. Cannon from DePaul University and Bartley R. Danielsen from North Carolina State University.

    Harrison noted that as a mostly white state, Vermont does not have the racial segregation in housing found in other states. Vermont also lacks the dramatic income disparity found elsewhere in the United States, Harrison said.

    “This makes it more of a clean test of whether school vouchers affect property values,” he said.

    Vermont’s voucher system itself is unusual, Harrison said. While Vermont has had a voucher system since 1869 for students in towns that do not operate a school, the practice is much newer in most other states. Also, towns across the state offer school choice, while in most other states it is confined to urban areas.

    “The city of Milwaukee has a voucher system, but vouchers are not available for every child in Wisconsin,” Harrison said.

    According to the Agency of Education, in 2012, approximately 2,500 of Vermont’s 86,000 students — 2.9 percent — received school vouchers, either to go to the public school of their choice or to defray tuition at a secular independent school.

    The study looked at property values as they relate to the number of schools within driving distance of the home in question and found that having more choices results in higher property sale prices. The study also concludes that the availability of vouchers in a town where the nearest school has low standardized test scores compared with other schools nearby can result in a difference in property values of more than $24,000, when compared with a comparable property in a similar town.

    “It wasn’t a big surprise to us to see a difference in property values. A rule of finance is that options have value,” Harrison said. “What was surprising was the magnitude of the difference.”

    Mill Moore, executive director of the Vermont Independent Schools Association, said the study confirms what he always thought about the link between school choice and property values.

    “I always suspected what these findings are showing us,” Moore said. “It demonstrates that school choice has a beneficial impact on the towns that have it.”

    Harrison said his next study will look at what motivates a parent to choose one school over another.

    josh.ogorman @rutlandherald.com

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