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Study: Metro Atlanta home buyers willing to pay more to live in charter school attendance zone

A report released today  suggests metro Atlanta home buyers are willing to pay a premium to live in the primary attendance zones of  certain charter schools.

According to the study by the Georgia State University’s Fiscal Research Center, that willingness led to a rise in home values in those areas.

The study looked at 13 charter schools in APS, Fulton or DeKalb that set priority attendance zones, meaning seats go first to students in a specific area. If those kids don't fill the seats, enrollment expands to a second zone.

The study compared home values in the priority one and two zones and found the greater chance of gaining admission to the charter afforded in zone one raised property values.

Two of the 13 schools are conversions in which parents at an existing public school voted to embrace charter status; Kingsley Charter Elementary School in DeKalb and North Springs Charter High School in Fulton.

Some of the schools are start-ups where the parents and community members creating and petitioning for the charter defined an attendance area. They include: the Atlanta Neighborhood Charter Schools, Drew Charter and the Museum School of Avondale Estates. Also in the study are DeKalb Path Academy and the KIPP schools, which are part of national charter school network that emphasizes basics and more time on task.

The report notes these charter schools follow a similar admissions process, stating:

As charters, these schools may set enrollment caps that dictate the maximum number of students per grade level. Returning students, siblings of returning students, children of full-time employees, and children of governing board members receive first priority in allocating available slots in each grade. Remaining slots are filled by priority one attendance zone applicants, priority zone two applicants, and so on. If at any point in the process there are more applicants than available slots, then a random lottery determines which applicants receive offers of admission.

The study concludes:

The charter school landscape in Georgia mirrors the national landscape in many important ways, but it also has unique features – charter systems and priority admission zones within designated attendance areas. This report exploits the latter feature to estimate households’ willingness-to-pay for increased probability of admission to charter schools. The results indicate a significant premium associated with being located in priority one zones compared to similar single-family residences in priority two zones.

This suggests households value access to charter schools and the type of neighbors located in priority one attendance zones. Traditional public schools also rely on property tax revenue for funding. These results, therefore, suggest another channel (besides competition) through which charter schools may help improve traditional public schools – increased revenue. The estimated premiums are associated with start-up and conversion charter school priority attendance zones only, with the majority of the sample consisting of start-up charters. These estimates, therefore, do not indicate anything about how households value the other unique feature of the charter landscape in Georgia – charter systems

GSU released this statement today on the study:

The report finds that over a 10-year period home sale prices were 7 to 13 percent higher in areas with the greatest chance of charter school enrollment.

“Although there is extensive research on charter school achievement outcomes, relatively little is known about how the general public values these schools,” said Carlianne Patrick, author of the new report, “Willing to Pay: Charter Schools’ Impact on Georgia Property Values.”

“Georgia presents a unique opportunity for such analysis,” she added.

Unlike most charter schools in the United States where attendance areas are widely dispersed, 13 Georgia charter schools have priority attendance zones, a feature that gives families a greater chance of admission. Families located in priority one zones are more likely to be selected for admission than families in priority two or priority three zones. Analyzing the impact on neighborhoods closest to the border of the highest-priority attendance zone provides a better snapshot of the true effect on property values.

  • For elementary school neighborhoods: Homes sold for 9 to 13 percent more than similar homes in priority two zones.
  • For middle school neighborhoods: Homes sold for 8.5 to 10.5 percent more than similar homes in priority two zones.
  • For high school neighborhoods: Homes sold for 10 percent more than similar homes in priority two zones.

While this data points to a high demand for homes in neighborhoods with charter school enrollment priority zones, the report also helps refute notions that charter schools erode public schools. The increased home values mean increased tax revenue, which is a benefit for public school districts.

“The results suggest that homebuyers want to live in areas with access to charter schools and are willing to pay for it,” Patrick said. “It’s another way to value school choice, and it’s a win for advocates in Georgia, and across the nation.”



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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.