Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The price of good schools

I heard it probably 100 times (more like 27 times).  I live in (name the city) and they have good schools.  My sister recently told me she was looking at buying a house in West Chester, Ohio.  The prices for housing is expensive in my opinion, and she told me that is because they have good schools.

Let's take a step back.  What on Earth does it mean to qualify as a "good" school.  I'm certain people that sent their kids to Columbine High School would have claimed that they had good schools too.  Since I live in Dayton, I've heard from the following areas as to having good schools.  If you ask...why do you live in (name the city).  Because they have a good school district is certain to be a top reason.  Especially if they have children.  I've heard that about Beavercreek, Centerville, Kettering, Oakwood, Kettering, Fairborn, Tipp City, Miamisburg and Bellbrook.  Each of these cities have good schools.  This is practically every city in the Dayton area.  I'm certain if I hung out Huber Heights or Riverside long enough...someone would say they have good schools as well.

I asked my sister...does West Chester really have good schools?  Really?  Are most of these kids going to Harvard after they graduate?  Are they taught to be free thinkers?  What qualifies as a good school?

Let me set something straight...their is no such thing as a good or bad school.  Every school is a good school if you want to believe it.  Unless of course you can find a method of measurement you could classify all schools as good.  This is like asking a room full of people how many people are good drivers?  Typically the majority of the people would raise their hands.  If you asked how many people are bad drivers...probably no one would answer yes.

Instead of asking good verse bad...why not ask how many people have caused a car accident within the last 3 years.  If someone answers yes...then they are bad drivers.  This is something that people could probably agree with.  You could say that people who have a speeding ticket are careless drivers.  Why?  Well, they didn't do anything bad like cause an accident.  However, they don't care about the posted speed limit...therefore classifying them as a careless driver (who got caught).  Same could be said about someone who runs a stop sign/light.

When it comes to local government...for some reason the people who want to get your money always uses some kind of scare tactic with a slogan.  For example...if you don't vote for that fire levy, then your house will burn down.  Or the firefighter won't have the equipment needed to put out the fire quickly.  If you don't vote for that police levy, then crime will rise.  If you don't vote for that school levy, your kids will suffer...and after all our kids are our future.

Why does this happen?  Throwing money at a problem rarely ever works.  If it did...then you wouldn't have people making millions going bankrupt.  You wouldn't have people worse off after winning the lottery.  I'm all for fire, police and education.  What I'm not for is catchy slogans.  Plus the typically the threat continues that if a levy doesn't pass then people get laid off.

In my last article I stated that taxes are the number two expense when it comes to housing.  I've also showed that taxes have outpaced inflation.  Certainly property taxes have outpaced wage inflation.  If you were a government employee you have received a pay cut for the last two years because your purchasing power has decreased due to inflation.  Most people in the private sector their wages haven't increased greater than inflation either.

Although a small part of the problems we face in this country.  Hopefully it does give you something to think about.  Next time someone says...our schools are great.  Ask what makes them great compared to the surrounding schools.


  1. You are exactly correct. Other than the Dayton City Schools, I have heard every school you named as being a good school. But, yet we still have children dropping out of school and those who cannot do simple math and have barely the ability to read and write. Parents spend a tremendous amount of time helping their children learn. I thought that was why we were sending them to school. Wasn't that to have others teach them so we wouldn't have to. So, if we have to teach them, why send them to school?

    1. Both time and money is being spent to send kids to school. I have a hard time believing that schools are better today then they were back when almost every family had only one income.

      To answer your question as to why send them to school. Well...because it is the state law. Each state has different rules regarding Compulsory Attendance.

      But yes, I get what you are saying. Why send your kids to school when you have to spend your evenings and weekends teaching what should have been taught in school. Seems like a very expensive daycare where kids are influenced by other kids, who many times aren't the best role models.

    2. Hi Gary,

      Rather than take people's word for it on the quality of schools, there are some measures of how good schools are. Some resources:

      I'm sure with a little looking around you can find other useful websites. Of course, like all statistics, it should be viewed with a critical eye. But it is a place to start.

      I'm also going to have to disagree with you that throwing money at a problem rarely works. Certainly there are many times when throwing money at a problem didn't solve something. But there are also many times when it has. For example, massive military spending during the early 1940s solved the problem of Nazis in Europe. The spending on the Rural Electrification Program solved the problem of poor people not having electricity. Spending on the Center for Disease Control eradicated the horrible disease of malaria from the US. I'm sure you can think of many other examples.

      Schools, police, and fire departments cost money, and that money has to come from somewhere. So I don't think it is as simple as you make it sound. But of course as a voter you should demand transparency and accountability. What will the money really be spent on? Will it really improve the police or schools or whatever? Does the organization have a good record of spending its money judiciously? But make sure you are viewing things critically, and not cynically.

      Anyway, I've enjoyed the blog so far! See you around.

      Justin F.

  2. I do have smart readers. This comment coming from one of my long time friends who is an Astrophysicist. Correct me if I'm wrong. I'm not quite sure how I ended up hanging out with some serious brain power back when I was a young lad.

    Justin is right...and he explained things better. Transparency and accountability is what I really want. However, people are what solved those problems. You could have given me billions and certainly I would never figure out how to eradicated malaria.

    I looked up your websites. It listed Oakwood as #13. 18:1 student ratio. Students are above average in college readiness, math, and reading. However, is it the school...or the parents who were above average, and thus their kids are above average? not ranked - Kettering High School got bronze level, rank 103rd Beavercreek received silver level, rank #56 Centerville got silver level. Kettering had a lower student to teacher ratio at 16:1.

    My thoughts on Oakwood...the school saved lots of money by not having school buses. An article was written in 2008 that talked about Oakwood buying it's first bus, and how people weren't very happy about it.

    I remember back when I used to walk to school as a young lad. Those days seem to be over. It's a shame really if you read the article as to why they had to buy the school bus.

    Thanks for commenting Justin!


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