Could high school football stadiums drive economic development?

Among other reasons, the construction of impressive new high school football stadiums in Texas is justified by the idea that they will promote economic development:

School officials have responded to critics by pointing out that the stadium would also be used for soccer games, band competitions, and some state football games; there’s also the hope that retail and restaurant development will spring up nearby. A high school football stadium serves the community in ways other than just bringing in visitors, business, new residents and more tax dollars. One of them is clearly Texas pride in the game-day spectacle.

The evidence is pretty clear with sports stadiums that the public money spent on them tends to go back to the owners and teams, not the community. Could high school stadiums – paid for with tax money yet serving the community – be different?

One point of skepticism is to ask how many significant events these stadiums would hold each year. The biggest crowd events are football games. But, a high school team plays roughly five to eight home games each year. While these stadiums are bigger than the average high school stadium, are there enough fans to support local businesses? It seems like the stadiums need to hold a lot more events to truly bring in people. (Perhaps some of them could attract concerts or festivals?)

A second question is how to directly link the football stadium to economic development. As the article notes, a number of these communities are expected to grow. At least some of this growth would have happened without the flashy new stadium. Are the communities going to survey new residents and businesses to see if the stadium factored into their decision? Or, having built the stadiums, will they attribute positive changes to the stadium?

Finally, it sounds like these communities are locked into competition for stadiums (and other amenities as well as general growth). Is it necessarily the case that building a great stadium would give one suburb a significant leg up on another suburb? If this is a zero-sum game or an arms race, someone will lose. A different view might be that Sunbelt suburban growth will continue in a number of these communities and may not be strongly related to the construction of high school stadiums (or other public amenities).

Indianapolis’ Univgov only worked because schools were not included

The Univgov created in Indianapolis in 1970 may have only gone forward because it didn’t unite all local governments; it intentionally left out school districts.

The celebrated unified government, or “Unigov,” law brought together about a dozen communities in Marion County into a single large city in 1970. The idea was to put a bigger, more powerful Indianapolis onto the national map, simplify city services, and grow the city’s tax base. Indianapolis was not the only city in the country to merge with its surrounding county at that time—but it was the only one to explicitly leave schools out of the deal…

The judge who ordered the busing, Samuel Dillin, stated bluntly that a merged city that left 11 separate school districts was racially motivated. At the time, a majority of the region’s African American and minority students lived in the city center while the surrounding school districts primarily enrolled white students.

“Unigov was not a perfect consolidation,” then-Mayor Richard Lugar said. He went on to be one of Indiana’s most legendary political leaders as a six-term U.S. Senator. “A good number of people really wanted to keep at least their particular school segregated.” Lugar said he knew the 162-page Unigov bill would die in the Indiana General Assembly if schools were included. But he still thinks the merger was worth it, despite the effects it has had on schools…

Unigov’s legacy for Indiana education is mixed at best, but neither Lugar nor Cierzniak think a future Marion County school district merger—one way some scholars say segregation can be reduced—is likely. Township districts have grown considerably, and the state legislature has heard district consolidation plans over the years that have repeatedly failed.

Uniting metropolitan governments is a difficult task, primarily for reasons like this: wealthier, whiter, often suburban residents do not often want to share their resources – particularly schools – with those who are not as wealthy and white. When the middle-class and above look for places to live, they often prioritize the school district and if it has a record of higher performance, will fight to keep others out. These wealthier residents want their tax dollars, especially those based on their better housing values, to go to their children and community. And the white-black divide is often the most difficult line to cross in such situations.

As another recent example, see the case of when Ferguson, Missouri students were given the chance to leave their unaccredited school district. Some parents in the new school district do not react well.

Wealthier kids go to nearby schools; poorer kids travel further

Living in a poorer neighborhood means the resident children travel further to go to school:

Julia Burdick-Will found it was actually children in affluent neighborhoods who stayed close to home for school. In lower-income neighborhoods, kids in search of better options dispersed to dozens of other schools, often commuting alone for miles.

In Chicago neighborhoods with a median household income of more than $75,000, most students attended one of two or three schools. But when the neighborhood median income dropped to less than $25,000, students dispersed to an average of 13 different schools…

In affluent neighborhoods almost no one traveled 4 miles to school; the average commute was about 1.7 miles. But in disadvantaged neighborhoods, the average commute for children was 2.7 miles, with 25 percent of the kids traveling more than 4 miles. Ten percent of the low-income kids traveled more than 6 miles…
In low-income neighborhoods the problem isn’t just access, Burdick-Will said, but the potential social costs of traveling far across the city every day, possibly alone—costs that don’t apply to similarly achieving students in higher income neighborhoods.

An interesting paradox. Typically, wealth means mobility: they can seek out opportunities far and near, move to new locations when need by, afford the transportation costs. We imagine poorer residents stuck in neighborhoods with little opportunity to leave – and evidence from Robert Sampson in Great American City suggests even when afforded the opportunity to leave, many poor residents turn to similar poor locations.

Yet, public schools are one of the more local institutions in the United States. People move to neighborhoods and communities for the quality of their schools. The majority of property taxes go to local schools. Local school board officials are often elected and want to shape their local institutions. Community events are often held in these schools. They are a source of pride if the schools do well, a source of concern if they are not doing well.

Given that, it makes sense that Burdick-Will would suggest it is a burden for kids to go further for school. And that burden is on top of the other obstacles children in poorer neighborhoods face.

Illinois the first Midwest state to have majority of minority students in public schools

New data shows that Illinois for the first time has a majority of minority students in the state’s public schools:

Whites fell to 49.76 percent of the student body this school year, the new data show, a demographic tipping point that came after years of sliding white enrollment and a rise in Latino, Asian and multiracial students.

The black student population also has declined, but it still makes up almost 18 percent of the state’s public school students…

If those numbers hold, Illinois would be one of a dozen states — and the first in the Midwest — to have a school system in which minority students are in the majority, according to the most recent federal education data. Included in that category are Western and Southern states with large Latino or black populations, as well as the District of Columbia, according to the National Center for Education Statistics…

Illinois’ diverse student population doesn’t match the diversity of its teaching staff. Based on 2012 state data, 83 percent of Illinois’ public school teachers are white.

This is a relatively common thing in the United States today though it is unusual for it to happen to a Midwestern state. Relative to whites, minority populations in the United States have been growing.

One way this happens is through immigration. This is a reminder that although certain states are associated with immigration – places like California, Texas, Florida – immigration is closely tied to big cities. Here are some bits from a 2012 Census report looking at foreign-born populations in the 2010 Census:

While the foreign born resided in every state in 2010, over half lived in just four states: California, New York, Texas, and Florida. Over one-fourth of the total foreign-born population lived in California…
In 14 states and the District of Columbia, the percentage of foreign born was equal to or greater than the national average of 13 percent. With the exception of Texas, Florida, and Illinois, these states were primarily in the western and northeastern parts of the country.
With the exception of Illinois (14 percent), the percentage of foreign born in all states of the Midwest region was below 8 percent, including North Dakota and South Dakota, each with about 3 percent.

The Chicago region draws a large amount of immigrants and drew a large number of black migrants during the early 1900s in the Great Migration. Without the draw of jobs and opportunities in Chicago, the demographics of Illinois children today might look much more like Iowa or Wisconsin.

Bill de Blasio the first ever New York City mayor to send his kids to public schools?

A look at how the new mayor of New York City identifies with the working class and forgotten elements of the city includes this interesting piece of information about where de Blasio’s kids go to school:

The Brooklyn resident says he would become the first mayor in the city’s history with children enrolled in public schools. “He knows our issues because he has children in the trenches with us,” said Freddie Sneed Jr., 55, a truck driver.

I know different parts of the political spectrum might interpret this information differently but it struck me as quite surprising. Not one mayor in NYC history would have their children attend public schools? Here is more on de Blasio’s claim as he used it on the campaign trail:

This week, at a televised debate between the 2013 Democratic mayoral candidates, the issue of parental school choices came up again. But this time the topic was brought up voluntarily, by Public Advocate and public-school parent Bill de Blasio.

De Blasio pointed out that if he wins, he will become the first mayor in the city’s history with children in public school.

It’s not a claim I could substantiate. I can say with certainly, however, that he would be the first mayor with a child in public school at the time he was mayor in at least 50 years…

None of the other leading candidates from either party who have children made the decision to send them to public school: Bill Thompson sent his daughter to private school and his step-children are in boarding school, while Republicans Joe Lhota and John Catsimatidis sent their children to private schools.

Read on for more history of NYC mayors and their choices of where their kids went to school. Did de Blasio’s claim make a difference in the election?

It’s hard to tell just how much it will matter when it comes time for people to vote, though, since there’s so little precedent for becoming mayor on the strength of being a public-school parent.

Since he won, I suspect more people will claim this choice mattered more.

Effects of residential segregation: American schools racially divided across districts

A new sociological study finds more of the racial and ethnic variation in American education takes place across school districts:

Nearly 60 years after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision that ordered school districts to desegregate, schools seem to be trending back toward their segregated pasts. In the 1968-69 school year, when the U.S. Department of Education started to enforce Brown, about 77 percent of black students and 55 percent of Latino students attended public schools that were more than half-minority. By the 2009-2010 school year, the picture wasn’t much better for black students, and it was far worse for Latinos: 74 percent of black students and 80 percent of Latino students went to schools that were more than half-minority. More than 40 percent of black and Latino students attended schools that were 90 percent to 100 percent minority…

Whites are nearly a minority in the U.S. population under the age of five, and Census projections predict that by 2043, whites will no longer be the majority of the U.S. population overall. “There’s going to be fewer whites in minority schools because there are fewer whites in the population,” said Fiel.

Another part of the problem is with desegregation policies themselves. At the time of the Brown decision, schools in the same district were vastly unequal to one another, so efforts went toward integrating schools within each district. That made sense to combat segregation as it existed at the time.

Today, though…”The biggest barrier to reducing racial isolation…is racial imbalance between school districts in the same metropolitan area/nonmetropolitan county,” Fiel wrote in his American Sociological Review article.

In other words, where people can live, typically determined by wealth and income which are related to education and race and ethnicity, helps determines the differential outcomes of school districts. If residential segregation is common – and it is in many metropolitan areas in the United States – then we shouldn’t be surprised that other outcomes are unequal.

Good school districts give homes up to a $50 per square foot boost in value

Redfin suggests a home located in a high-performing school district can command a higher price:

How much more do they have to pay for a home that feeds into a top-ranked elementary school as opposed to an average-ranked school? Nationally, try an extra $50 per square foot, on average, according to the data crunchers at Redfin.

In the Chicago area, the median price of a home near top-tier schools was $257,500, 58.5 percent higher than the median price of $162,500 for a home near an average-ranked school.

The findings are a jolt of reality for almost 1,000 consumers who plan to buy a home in the next two years and completed a Realtor.com survey in July. More than half of those potential buyers said they’d be willing to pay as much as 20 percent above their budget to buy a home within certain school boundaries. Apparently, that’s not enough to get into the best schools.

To do its calculations, Redfin compared median sale prices of similar homes in the same neighborhood but which fell within the boundaries of different elementary schools. The transactions studied were those that closed between May 1 and Aug. 31 — a time when home prices were showing recovery in most parts of the country — and were listed on local multiple listing services. Then Redfin boiled those numbers down into median sales prices per square foot.

An interesting experimental design – houses matched by neighborhood but in different school districts – and an interesting finding.

This reminds me of hearing Annette Lareau speak at the American Sociological Association meetings this past August in New York City. When she and her fellow researchers looked at how middle and upper-class families took schools into account when searching for where to live, they found that they were able to quickly eliminate most school districts as not being good enough. In contrast to the lengthy research these parents did regarding other areas of life, through word of mouth, they were able quickly learn what neighborhoods they would buy in.

Putting this all together, if there are only so many homes in the top school districts, buyers can ask for more and expect some competition among people who want to be part of the better school district.