Out of Control Policy Blog

Improve Urban Schools for Truly 'Smart' Growth

Here's some sage advice for "Smart Growth" proponents from Bill King, editor of Expansion Management, an online newsletter that aims to assist its readers (mainly small and medium-size employers) in making company relocation decisions:

    "Smart Growth is spreading like wildfire throughout the United States, though I wonder whether or not it will deliver its desired results, or whether it will only further exacerbate the situation – urban sprawl and urban decay – that it seems to hope to turn around.

    It's not that I wish them ill. It's simply that I think that the movement is built upon a well-meaning, but off-target, foundation.

    That's because, in my opinion, it ignores the single largest obstacle to urban economic revitalization – school districts that don't deliver the type of educated work force the current (and future) economy demands."

Read the whole thing. King makes an important point, and one that is often lost in the environmental/livability rhetoric common to smart growthers. Companies want to locate in places with a large pool of educated workers. This is a major reason why companies have been flocking to the suburbs and away from central cities for decades. Simply put, "it's the education system, stupid!"

Greenbelts and light rail systems may be hip and trendy, but businesses are far more concerned with the availability of a qualified labor pool when making location decisions. Not to mention that it can be hard to convince existing employees to relocate to a new area where their kids could look forward to a mediocre public education system.

How do we start improving urban schools? You've come to the right place! Reason has been a leader in the national education reform movement. Visit our Education and Child Welfare center for the latest education news and policy ideas. And don't miss Lisa Snell's education blog, Education Weak.

Leonard Gilroy is Director of Government Reform


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