Public Schools Good for People Without Kids, Too - Miller-McCune
What makes communities strong and vibrant? Researchers say local schools bring a raft of positives to town — even for the childless — beyond creating an educated populace.
Few things ignite a community quite like this question: if you don’t have children in the local public schools, should you have to help pay for those schools?
Tax exemptions for specific demographic groups like senior citizens, for example, are often rationalized as lightening the burden on residents who don’t benefit from public schools. When school bond measures fail across the country, it’s often a sign of torn communities unsure of who should foot the bill for new investments in education (although maintaining existing facilities seems to be more palatable).
Opponents of such bonds have a pretty straightforward case. Why should they be forced to pay for a resource they can’t use and don’t need? The counterargument has always been trickier to make.
“There’s always been this very general argument that it’s good to have an educated populace, it’s good to have children getting a good education,” said Zachary Neal, an assistant professor of sociology and global urban studies at Michigan State University. “But those ideas are often so broad, so general, and they don’t have an immediate and compelling impact on those who don’t have kids in schools.”
But what if public schools actually did more for a community — everyone in it — than just contribute to the long-term education prospects of its resident children?
“We’re finding that these schools might have very short-term, immediate, and direct benefits,” Neal said, “in addition to those more diffuse ones.”