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Best School Districts to Buy an Affordable Home – 2019 Edition

Stephanie Horan
best school districts to buy an affordable home


High-performing public schools and robust public education spending are often correlated with high home values. According to a 2002 report published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), “Using Market Valuation to Assess Public School Spending,” every dollar spent on public schools in a community increases home values by $20. While the three factors – school performance, school expenditures and home values – are generally intertwined, there is some variance. As a result of inefficient spending, for example, school expenditures may not necessarily imply better school performance and student outcomes. Similarly, the performance of public schools may not be reflected in the residential housing market, according to the NBER, creating an opportunity for people with school-aged children to buy an affordable home within a great school district.

In this study, we uncovered the best school districts in which to buy an affordable home. To do this, we used 2016-2017 school year data from the National Center for Education Statistics and the Department of Education EDFacts along with the Census Bureau’s 2017 1-year American Community Survey. In order to account for housing affordability in each district, we filtered out school districts in counties where the median home value was four times the median household income. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, check out the Data and Methodology section below.

Key Findings

  • There are many high-performing, affordable school districts in Texas. Six of our top 10 school districts to buy an affordable home are in Texas. They include the following Independent School Districts: Plano, Georgetown, Denton, Round Rock , Lewisville and Wichita Falls. Furthermore, 16 of our top 25 school districts to buy an affordable home are in Texas.
  • Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Iowa and Virginia are also great options. Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Iowa and Virginia are the other states with multiple school districts in the top 25.

 

1. Plano Independent School District – Collin County, TX

Ranking first overall and part of Collin County, Texas, Plano Independent School District is a large school district serving about 54,000 students. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that for the 2016-2017 school year there were 79 operational schools within the Plano Independent School District, or an average of about 686 students per school. The median household income in Collin County is $94,933 and the median home value is only about three and a half times this amount, $323,500.

Plano ranks in the top 15% of school districts we considered for six of our eight metrics. It performs particularly well in terms of high school graduation rate along with English and math proficiency rates, all top-20 rates. All measured at the metro area-level, 92.4% of students graduated from high school, and 73.9% and 79.4% of students were proficient in English and math, respectively, for the 2016-2017 school year.

2. Georgetown Independent School District – Williamson County, TX

Just north of Austin in Williamson County, Texas, Georgetown Independent School District takes the No. 2 spot in our top 10. It serves approximately 11,400 students and has a student-to-teacher ratio of about 15. Additionally, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education, 76.1% and 80.3% of students were proficient in English and math, respectively, for the 2016-2017 school year. The median household income in Williamson County is $81,719, and the median home value is a little more than three times this amount, $272,500.

Though Georgetown Independent School District outperforms Plano Independent School District in terms of its English and math proficiency rates as well as its high school graduation rate, 93.0%, Georgetown has a higher student-to-guidance-counselor ratio than Plano. For the 2016-2017 school year, there were about 444 students for every guidance counselor in Georgetown as compared to 336 within the Plano Independent School District.

3. Denton Independent School District – Denton County, TX

Denton Independent School District, part of Denton County, Texas, ranks third in our study on the best school districts to buy an affordable home. In fact, both Denton Independent School District and Plano Independent School District are a part of the same greater metro area, Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington. Denton Independent School District has a slightly higher number of students per school than Plano Independent School District, but a slightly lower student-to-teacher ratio. For the two metrics, Denton ranks 288th and 53rd, respectively, while Plano ranks 256th and 55th. The median household income in Denton County is $86,291 and the median home value is only a little more than three times this amount, at $280,600.

4. Sheboygan Area School District – Sheboygan County, WI

Part of Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, Sheboygan Area School District ranks fourth in our study on the best school districts to buy an affordable home. The district had 26 operating schools and a total of 10,228 students in the 2016-2017 school year according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The Sheboygan Area School District has a lower childhood poverty rate than the three previous Texas school districts – as well as all 456 school districts in the study. According to Census estimates, in 2017, only 6.6% of children under the age of 18 were living below the poverty level. By comparison, all three previous school districts had child poverty rates exceeding 12% in the metro areas in which they are located. The median household income in Sheboygan County is $58,361, and the median home value is less than three times this amount, at $154,900. Wisconsin also makes our list of top 10 states for homeowners.

5. Pittsburgh School District – Allegheny County, PA

Pittsburgh School District comes in at No. 5 and has the lowest student-to-teacher ratio of any school district in our top 10. Specifically, there were about 11 students for every teacher during the 2016-2017 school year. There are also fewer students in each school as compared to other school districts, which may increase the amount of individual or focused instruction that each student receives. With 58 operational schools within the Pittsburgh School District, there were about 386 students per school for the 2016-2017 school year, the eighth-lowest number across all school districts for which we analyzed data. Pittsburgh happens to rank No. 1 in our study of the most undervalued cities in America.

It may be worth noting that the Pittsburgh School District is part of a county with a higher violent crime rate that ranks in the bottom half of all of the counties we considered. County Health Rankings reports a violent crime rate of 395 for every 100,000 residents in Allegheny County. The median household income in Allegheny County is $58,625 and the median home value is less than three times this amount, at $153,500.

6. Round Rock Independent School District – Williamson County, TX

Round Rock Independent School District ranks as the sixth-best school district in which to buy an affordable home. It is a part of Williamson County, Texas – just like the No. 2 school district on our list, Georgetown Independent School District – and as a result, some of the metrics measured at the metro area level are the same. However, Round Rock Independent School District ranks lower than Georgetown Independent School District, because there are many more students per school in Round Rock schools. The median household income in Williamson County is $81,719, and the median home value is a little more than three times this amount, $272,500.

7. Lewisville Independent School District – Denton County, TX

Lewisville Independent School District is a part of Denton County, Texas. For the 2016-2017 school year, there were about 14 students for every teacher and 387 students for every guidance counselor, ranking in the top third of all school districts for both quality-attention metrics. The percentage of students proficient in English, percentage of students proficient in math and high school graduation rate for Lewisville Independent School District are all top-20 rates. The median household income in Denton County is $86,291, and the median home value is only a little more than three times this amount, at $280,600.

8. Lancaster School District – Lancaster County, PA

Lancaster School District, located in the Pennsylvania county of the same name, takes the eighth spot in our study. It is the second high-performing and affordable school district located in Pennsylvania in the top 10, following Pittsburgh School District at No. 5. Lancaster ranks in the top half of the study in all metrics and performs the best in terms of student-to-teacher ratio and student-to-guidance counselor ratio. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, for the 2016-2017 school year, there were about 14 students for every teacher and 333 students for every guidance counselor, the 45th and 48th lowest rates, respectively, of any school district we considered. The median household income in Lancaster County is $63,407, and the median home value is only a little more than three times this amount, at $204,200.

9. Racine Unified School District – Racine County, WI

Racine Unified School District in Racine County, Wisconsin, comes in at No. 9. Compared to the other Wisconsin school in our top 10, Sheboygan Area School District, The Racine Unified School District has a much higher child poverty rate. In 2017, 18.2% of children in the county were living below the poverty level, ranking toward the middle of the 456 school districts we considered. Despite this, Racine ranks first overall for high graduation rate in the metro area, at 96.0%, and the school district has a low student-to-teacher ratio, at about 13 students for every teacher. The median household income in Racine County is $60,897, and the median home value is less than three times this amount, at $169,500.

10. Wichita Falls Independent School District – Wichita County, TX

Wichita Falls Independent School District, the sixth Texan school district in our top 10, rounds out this list at No. 10. During the 2016-2017 school year, there were about 471 students per school within the district with a student-to teacher ratio of about 14. Additionally, students in the Wichita Falls metro area had a high school graduation rate of 94.7%, the second-highest of any metro area included in our study. The median household income in Wichita County is $43,295, and the median home value is only a little more than twice this amount, at $100,700 – which is also the lowest median home value of any county in our top 10.

Data and Methodology

To rank the best school districts to buy an affordable home in, we compared 456 school districts across the following eight metrics:

  • Average number of students per school. This is the total number of students in the district divided by the total number of operational schools. Data comes from the National Center for Education Statistics and is for the 2016-2017 school year.
  • Student-to-teacher ratio. Data comes from the National Center for Education Statistics and is for the 2016-2017 school year.
  • Student-to-guidance counselor ratio. Data comes from the National Center for Education Statistics and is for the 2016-2017 school year.
  • Percentage of students proficient in English. This is the average percentage of students across schools who are proficient in reading. Data comes from the U.S. Department of Education EDFacts for the 2016-2017 school year. It is measured by metro area.
  • Percentage of students proficient in math. This is the average percentage of students across schools who are proficient in math. Data comes from the U.S. Department of Education EDFacts for the 2016-2017 school year. It is measured by metro area.
  • High school graduation rate. Data comes from the U.S. Department of Education EDFacts for the 2016-2017 school year. It is measured by metro area.
  • Violent crime rate. This is the number of violent crimes per 100,000 residents. Data comes from the 2019 County Health Rankings.
  • Child poverty rate. This is the percentage of residents under the age of 18 who are living below the poverty line. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 1-year American Community Survey.

We considered only school districts with 10,000 students or more and with a lowest grade level of pre-kindergarten and a highest grade level of 12th grade. Additionally, we filtered out school districts in counties where the ratio of median home value to median household income exceeded four to one to identify affordable places to buy a home. From there, we ranked each remaining school district in every metric, weighting all metrics equally with the exceptions of student-to-teacher ratio and high school graduation rate, both of which received a double weight. Then we found each school district’s average ranking and used the average to determine a final score. The school district with the highest average ranking received a score of 100. The school district with the lowest average ranking received a score of 0.

Tips for Finding a Home

  • Make sure you can handle a mortgage. If you’re thinking about settling into a new or perhaps even a bigger home, recognize that a mortgage is a big commitment. Be certain you’ll be able to afford whatever you’ll end up having to pay. Use SmartAsset’s mortgage calculator to see the ideal range in which you should be shopping.
  • Trusted personal finance advice. A financial advisor can help you make smarter financial decisions such as moving or being in better control of your money as you navigate finding a new job or helping a loved one pay for educational costs. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

Questions about our study? Contact us at press@smartasset.com

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