USA Today recently published an interesting ARTICLE on a trend I've been noticing for years, more people are moving back to big cities. After years of families and young people rushing to the suburbs, city life is now becoming more appealing, and rundown urban areas are seeing significant re-flourishing. The article addresses cities nationwide, but uses Baltimore as a specific example of a big city changing for the better.
As someone who grew up in both a city and suburban environment, I've been able to see the pros and cons of both and am admittedly a city gal. I like the historic architecture of big cities, the more solidly built homes and other structures, walkability and transportation, presence of mom and pop shops, cultural institutions, dining options, and diversity big cities tend to offer.
What I've noticed though is that upwardly mobile people who choose to inhabit cities undergoing renaissance are saddled with an increased responsibility to better their communities. While developers come in and offer more amenities and renovated housing, economically well-off residents become tasked with warding off crime and restoring dilapidated institutions, most importantly public education.
My Baltimore neighborhood is currently faced with this challenge, as neighborhood parents decide if they will organize and put in the effort necessary to bring our neighborhood school up to snuff. Will we send our kids to the local public school? Enroll them in private school? Or move away to a pricier neighborhood with better schools?
I for one am all for strengthening our neighborhood school. I feel this way for many reasons:
1. We pay extremely high property taxes, and should reap the benefits of this by attending the school system we pay for.
2. I love my home and neighborhood and don't want to move. Why should I shell out money to move when where I am located could be a perfectly fine place to raise a family with just a little work? (sidenote: I'm amazed at the number of parents I meet who buy more house than they can afford to send their kids to better schools, instead of just improving the schools in areas they can afford.)
3. Poorer children who's parents do not have the resources to send them to private school should have access to good schools and the ability to socialize with students of all backgrounds.
4. My husband and I are fortunate in that we can afford to send our child to any private school in Baltimore, but shelling out $25k a year in tuition while letting our neighborhood school underperform just undermines our property value. So not only will we add a major expense by sending our kid to private school, but we will also be eroding the value of one of money making assets, our beloved home. Even sending our child to the cheapest nearby private option will end up costing $150-200K in lost equity and tuition bills over the course of 9 years, and that's just for one kid.
I know firsthand that schools not performing at the desired level can be changed rapidly through parental and community involvement. I've seen it occur in cities faced with swift population changes such as DC. However, this change does not occur due to one or two active parents, it requires a committed group of residents. So the question becomes, are you committed?
"Life's most persistent and urgent questions is, 'What are you doing for others?'" ~Martin Luther King Jr.