How to Pay for Albemarle County Schools?

It costs nearly $12,000 per year to educate a kid in Albemarle County Schools. This year, the County Schools are facing a proposed funding gap of nearly $7 million and the cry from many parents, administrators and citizens has been to “fully fund the schools. (including emails from the schools’ email distribution newsgroups).”

Rather than repeat myself, this is a story I wrote three years ago and it’s still relevant. Schools matter for housing values. Period. People move to the Charlottesville area all the time for the schools. Schools. Matter. (this is as good a time as any to remind folks to check your school district before you write an offer to purchase a home )

But …

How should the citizenry pay for the schools?

Would people support an Adequate Public Facilities legislation?

A schools tax?

Asking for “more!” without referencing the “how?” in my opinion diminishes the argument.

* note: one of my kids graduated from Western Albemarle schools and one is currently enrolled.

No High School Rankings in Albemarle County Schools?

Albemarle County is in discussions about whether to stop ranking students.

In response to calls from parents to stop reporting class rankings to college admissions offices, Albemarle County Public Schools is in the process of reviewing its policy.

Currently, Albemarle reports class ranks to colleges and universities in deciles, but many parents feel that doing so paints students below the top 10 percent negatively in the eyes of selective universities.

Questions -

- Does *not* rewarding kids for achievement disincentivize them from trying harder?

- How could we focus educating kids on actually educating kids rather than passing tests in order to get better ranked?

- When folks are moving to Charlottesville – Albemarle what rankings to they consider in public schools? Do they factor in what percentage of

There is a great discussion at RealCrozetVA.

Update – Charlottesville Tomorrow has a poll – Should Albemarle County report student rankings to colleges?

Verify your School District Before you Buy a Home

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There’s nothing worse than buying a home, a large part of that buying decision being the school district, to then find that you’re not in the school district you thought. (hopefully before you close)

It happens.

“School District” is one of the most important criteria identified by my buyer clients searching for homes – school districts matter. Better schools = higher home prices.

Bad data entry happens. To all of us.

Trust. Then Verify.

A client emailed me the other day about a new listing … great home, great location, great school district … just not the current great school district; it was marked as being in an adjacent school district, pre-redistricting.

So – Check your school district before you buy a home. Seriously.

I tell my clients that I trust the Charlottesville MLS about 83.875% of the time … it’s greatest flaw is that it’s run by humans, humans, many of whom don’t give a second thought to the value of accurate data.

Here’s what happens when a realtor in Charlottesville inputs a new listing into the MLS:

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- Cloning is more efficient.

- Double-checking is not.

If a property last sold 7 years ago via the Charlottesville MLS, there’s a darn good chance that the school districts have shifted.

So:

- Search the MLS for homes by school district.

- Assume it’s accurate.

- Verify for your own self whether it is accurate.

- Check the website of the school system to verify whether your house is in X school district.

- Call the school system to verify. (take notes and names)

Proceed. :)

Redistricting Albemarle’s Schools, APFs and Proffers – Take 2

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Redistricting, by its very nature tears families and communities apart. And that sucks. But it is what it is.

There’s quite a conversation happening in Albemarle County right now as many school districts are undergoing redistricting discussions – evaluating current, past and projected enrollment numbers. I’ve been writing about the proposed redistricting a lot in part because schools matter. Better schools = better housing prices. (and better educated kids, too, presumably)

As I’ve told my clients for years:

1 – The only way to be assured that your kid is going to go to that school is if that school is private.

2 – Always. Always. Always. Check your school district – yourself – before you buy a home.

Albemarle is going to grow. There will be more people here. In Albemarle: 115k in 2020, 134k in 2030, 155k in 2040. (see: Weldon Cooper Center) Schools will need to grow. (so will roads, bike lanes, taxes).

We need to accept and deal with the growth, no matter our internal struggles with the ramifications of growth.

Now (really, 10 years ago) is the time to plan for such things.

A few ideas:

- Adequate Public Facilities legislation. Virginia is a Dillon Rule state, so the localities can’t do anything without the General Assembly’s blessing. Learn who your legislators are. Find out who funds them. Get organized. Understand that getting such legislation is likely going to take longer to enact than your kids are going to be in elementary (and probably middle, maybe high) school.

- Proffers. Each new family costs money. Each student (new or old) costs money. I’m somewhat making this number up, but if a student costs $10k to educate at a public school (really, why no vouchers to allow choice?), and the home brings in between $1500 per year for a $200k home to $4500 for a $600k home … these homes are not paying for themselves. The bulk of school funding comes from property taxes.

- Special Tax District. I know other areas of the country have school taxes (and fire taxes, etc) – would you consider paying a school tax if you could be assured that the money would be spent wisely and only for schools (not increased bureaucracy or unnecessary administrators)?

- Limit population : Now that you’re here, would you want a cap on how many people are permitted to live in Albemarle County? (see: ASAP)

- Make no mistake; there are social and economic demographic idiosyncrasies in each of these schools that distinguish each school.

Neighborhoods may be split; the biggest target is Old Trail, but other neighborhoods are likely to face splits … does it have to be this way?

5 Points on School Redistricting and Uncertainty when Buying a Home in Albemarle

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Albemarle County

Albemarle County is HUGE (PDF)

One of the first posts written here was about redistricting schools in Albemarle County; sadly I hadn’t yet mastered the art of proper out-linking, so the stories to which I pointed are mostly dead. Today’s story by Aaron Richardson in the Daily Progress * succinctly describes the current state of some Albemarle County schools: “School redistricting is a headache for everyone, yet Albemarle County is at it again, considering a shuffle for a second time in as many years.”

High-quality schools are one of the more-cited reasons my buyer clients use when choosing to move to the Charlottesville – Albemarle area. I hope this acclaim is justified and continues to be the case.

In talking to a potential incoming client last week, we naturally discussed Albemarle County schools as part of a wider ranging conversation about whether this is the right place for his family. He’s looking for a rural property preferably, but also wants his kids to go to elementary school … and prefers to have a reasonable-length bus ride. How does one define “reasonable-length” in this context?

There really is not much to add to the Albemarle County Schools redistricting conversation than this:

- Read this from last year – Albemarle County Schools’ Populations Are Growing. Unexpectedly. ?!

- If you want 100% certainty that your kids will go to X school, that school better be private.

- Get involved in the process and the conversation. Schools matter, to our kids’ lives, our lives, our property values …

- The next meeting of the redistricting subcommittee is 27 November at Murray Elementary School.

- Always, always, always check your school district before you buy a home in Albemarle (or anywhere, really)


Some stories reflecting the ongoing uncertainty regarding some schools in Albemarle County:

Parents and neighbors in southern Albemarle County are getting more information about a plan to possibly shut down Yancey Elementary School in Esmont. NBC 29 – August 1 2012
Scottsville tells its supervisor it feels like ‘the redheaded stepchild‘ – Daily Progress – July 26 2012

One thing is true, the Meriwether Lewis parents are perhaps the best organized and mobilized parents in the community. For those in the Crozet district, I’d love to hear what the School Board representative, Barbara Massie Mouly, thinks about this; I haven’t seen word one from her in the press or any kind of outreach to the public.

* I’m glad to consistency in reporting from the Daily Progress; Aaron Richardson also wrote about redistricting last year. Having consistent knowledge is crucial when knowing about and reporting on local issues.

PS – I’m working on a story about growth areas in Albemarle County and their impact on livability and certainly of lifestyle.