Author Topic: Relocating Near Work -Bad School Districts Dilemma  (Read 2823 times)

PGMMM

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Relocating Near Work -Bad School Districts Dilemma
« on: September 13, 2016, 03:52:11 PM »
Thanks to this blog, I have come to realize that I need to sell my house with a ridiculous mortgage so that I can live near work and hopefully get rid of my clown car and terrible commute in the process.  I currently live within 10 miles of my place of work, but the commute necessitates a car and can take anywhere from 30-60 minutes.  My problem is there are no decent school districts near where I work. (I originally moved to my neighborhood because it is fairly close to work and has a good school district.) How are you Mustachians overcoming this hurdle? Aside from homeschooling, what do you recommend?

Ensign1999

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Re: Relocating Near Work -Bad School Districts Dilemma
« Reply #1 on: September 14, 2016, 07:58:48 AM »
The mustachian reply would be to ask how do you know there are no decent schools near where you work?  The blog talks about this in some posts, but before you judge a school or a district you really should go visit the schools.  Just because a school/district doesn't test and therefore doesn't get a high score on great schools.com or other ranking websites doesn't mean it isn't a great school.

Schools are really made and broken by their teachers, principals and the parents.  A school in a lower cost of living area could have great teachers, an amazing principal and parents that care, but because many of the students have English as a second language doesn't test well and gets a low score.  This could be a school where you kids learn more due to the diversity of the student population.  You could also find the opposite and you concerns could be validated, but you don't know until you visit.

How to overcome the hurdle...there are other options.  In our case it would be impossible to buy or rent near where I work so we put an affordable commute as a high criteria.  Most days I either ride the bus (paid for by my employer) or utilize a free ride share (drivers pick up passengers going to near where they work so they can use the HOV lanes).  The commute is longer than I would like, but I get to relax for the whole ride and let someone else pay the expense.  Are there any areas that might have better commuting options than driving yourself that meet your other criteria of lowering your mortgage and good schools?

BlueHouse

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Re: Relocating Near Work -Bad School Districts Dilemma
« Reply #2 on: September 15, 2016, 05:26:54 AM »
Wow, an hour to move 10 miles sucks!  Any chance you can get there quicker on a scooter or an ebike (if safe)?  What will the cost of moving to a new location be?  For me, just to move all of my stuff and pay closing cost on my place would be over $40k, so I'd need a quick ROI or a long term commitment in the new place.

cbee6390

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Re: Relocating Near Work -Bad School Districts Dilemma
« Reply #3 on: September 15, 2016, 05:51:40 AM »
Any chance your city/downtown district has charter schools? Charters typically don't have boundary zones/geographic requirements, and can (at times, depending on the city) significantly outperform the local neighborhood school.

Cities with good charter options and a diversity of academic models (e.g. including Montessori, expeditionary learning, language immersion...) include DC, Boston, New York City, Denver, Oakland...

PGMMM

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Re: Relocating Near Work -Bad School Districts Dilemma
« Reply #4 on: September 15, 2016, 07:55:37 PM »
Thanks for your replies! It has given me some things to think about. To answer some of your questions and to offer some more details...

Aside from time and stress the cost of my commute is virtually nothing - My job provides and services the car and pays for gas and car insurance.  By living closer to work I was hoping to save myself time, stress and money (by downsizing, paying less in taxes, etc.) I can't use the work car for personal trips though, so we have another car for our personal use. (older car gifted to us by my parents so no car payments!)

I really wish I could use a bike/scooter. I live in Pittsburgh and would be willing to brave the elements, but it wouldn't be safe to ride on the twisty, hilly roads that don't have any shoulder space . :>(

I am not sure the exact cost of moving to a new location (closing costs and a moving van come to  mind) but as long as the mortgage is lower/taxes less, I should make up the cost over time.

I haven't looked into Pittsburgh's charter schools - thank you for the suggestion. I will also try to look beyond the school ratings and see the schools in person. Perhaps I can talk to some families who have kids in those schools.

ender

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Re: Relocating Near Work -Bad School Districts Dilemma
« Reply #5 on: September 15, 2016, 08:26:39 PM »
How old are your kids?

I think people dramatically overestimate the effect that moving has on kids. Plenty of people move every few years as kids (military for example) and don't end up as completely dysfunctional adults.

steviesterno

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Re: Relocating Near Work -Bad School Districts Dilemma
« Reply #6 on: September 16, 2016, 06:38:08 AM »
going against the grain here. I vote stay. we were in a similar situation, and both hated our commute but school districts are very different here. In some towns closer to work (cheaper homes) you are required to send your kid to private school.

We did the math. Once we factored in the cost of the home, time spent (Half hour at worst, 12 minutes at best) commuting, cost of private school, expected home value, it was worth it. We have had our house appreciate 50k and our school district just ranked like top 100 in the nation. we'll also be walkable to elementary-HS, saving a ton of commuting time later.

Good bonus, wife switched jobs and will be working from mostly home, so half the commute is gone. I'll get her fuel efficient car for my driving here shortly.

moof

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Re: Relocating Near Work -Bad School Districts Dilemma
« Reply #7 on: September 16, 2016, 11:07:52 AM »
Without knowing if you are dual income or not, age of kids, or exactly why you have to spend 60 minutes for just 10 miles, I don't know if you could consider home schooling with one stay at home parent.  A lot of life gets cheaper if someone is at home preparing meals, handling chores, not driving as much, etc.

In my case my wife is stay at home and does all the childcare during the day, making it far less likely that we will both be exhausted and resort to eating out (it's been months since we have wimped out).  I've also become much more active in helping with meal planning and shopping to minimize small side trips.  My bike commute is ~40 minutes and 7.5 miles, which was not too much of an increase over the 25-35 minutes typical during the high traffic commute times.  I have a number of go-to meals I can fit into my backpack by swinging through the grocery store on the way home and cook in under 20 minutes to keep us from having any excuses.

The other solution is to change jobs.  Find one that pays similar, or even less, that allows for a walking/biking commute in an area with OK schools.  Resist the urge to demand the BEST school for your kids, you will end up finding lots of agro-moms have already pursued this path and driven up the cost of living.  My favorite example was a vacant house across from where we house sat once, the family was renting a crappy apartment in Cupertino for the schools rather than have their kids go to the San Jose schools at an annual cost of about $25k on top of their vacant house mortgage (wtf?!).

30 years back I was in one of those dumbass gifted programs that bussed me to a different school.  After 4 years it became clear the teachers were assigning heaps of extra homework to reinforce the notion to parents that their kids were being "challenged", even though we were progressing no faster.  Most of the extra work was just increased repetition, and I was really hating it.  My mom put me into the local elementary school instead, and despite being low-income and where I was a minority I was actually behind!  Once caught up the new teachers were much more open to giving me more side work on extra topics rather than just giving me twice as many of the same problems and I actually did much better.  I got sent down the hall to the next grade up for math for example.  So even a "bad" school in a low-income neighborhood can work out just fine.

Similarly I cut off 3 years of high school by starting college after my freshman year (yeah, freshman 2 years in a row, horrors).  I graduated with an engineering degree right before my 20th birthday after 5 years and got a couple year head start on my career while never having too heavy of a load (11-14 credits vs. typical 15-18 credit load needed to complete in 4 years).  So there are innovative ways to keep the school system from crushing your children's spirit, and to minimize how much they spin their wheels if they are capable of learning faster.

Lastly, even a lousy school can be greatly compensated for by spending 30-60 minutes with your kid each evening (time usually spent driving) to tutor them on subjects they are struggling with, or extra topics outside the curriculum.

Nick_Miller

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Re: Relocating Near Work -Bad School Districts Dilemma
« Reply #8 on: September 16, 2016, 11:20:35 AM »
OP, I have some experience in the education field, and I can tell, you, based on my experience, test scores DO generally serve as an accurate barometer for a school's performance and culture. They just do. Obviously things like free/reduced lunch %, suspension %, number of teachers nationally board certified, etc., all come into pay, but the test scores tell you mostly what you need to know, and I think you already know that.

How much do you earn? Does your spouse work? How much are you saving? I'm trying to get an idea of how much financial ability you have to consider something like private school?

I don't really understand the whole homeschool thing, as it takes a spouse out of the workforce AND let's face it, most people are not qualified to do it. It's VERY hard, especially as you reach the upper grades and the material becomes really challenging. There's a reason high school teachers specialize in a subject.

To be honest though, I'd generally that a bigger mortgage is smarter than paying private school tuition, as at least with the former you're building equity.

If you want to give more specifics about your situation, I'd be glad to chime in again.

Gibbelstein

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Re: Relocating Near Work -Bad School Districts Dilemma
« Reply #9 on: September 16, 2016, 03:52:15 PM »
If you want to move, move.  Your kids will be fine.  No school will have as much of an impact on your kids' outcomes as other life factors (Parent education level, income, etc.).  So, the majority of the ingredients are already in place and will come along with them to every school they go to. This can be good or bad, depending on family situations, but they can't outrun it.  Likely, if you have a choice, and you are able even to factor this question into your decision, your kids will be fine wherever they go to school.

Many analyses of outcomes for Charter schools seems to put most of them on a continuum between well meaning disasters and blatant crooks.  Also, they are not held to the same standards for services and outcomes as public schools are, which allows them to *look* better in comparison.  Also they are allowed to put their thumb on the scale by cherry-picking their students and excluding students with special needs.  This also serves to concentrate these more resource-demanding students in public schools which are required by law to serve every student, like education is some sort of basic right or something (suckers...).  Many of the same criticisms apply to private schools, to varying degrees.

From what I can tell, most of the bashing of certain schools seems to come from one or more of the following:
  • Fear: Parents worry about their kids, so they act irrationally because it feels better to make an active choice and when you think you took a positive step for your kids.
  • Rationalization: People can use "bad schools" boogeyman to justify spending more money on a larger house because it is in a better district, which is always more expensive.
  • Racism: These "bad schools" are almost always predominantly minority schools and, knowingly or not, the term "bad school" is coded language for "a building full of kids I don't want my kid to interact with"

Also, don't worry about the impact of moving on the kids.  There is no clear evidence that it is harmful, and any relationship between frequent moving and poor outcomes for kids is related to the reason for the moving. (i.e. a kid who has to constantly move because of evictions has issues due to housing or familial stability, not moving.)

Source: I work in educational research and was a military kid.
« Last Edit: September 16, 2016, 03:56:15 PM by Gibbelstein »

clarkfan1979

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Re: Relocating Near Work -Bad School Districts Dilemma
« Reply #10 on: September 17, 2016, 07:32:11 PM »
If you want to move, move.  Your kids will be fine.  No school will have as much of an impact on your kids' outcomes as other life factors (Parent education level, income, etc.). 


Also, don't worry about the impact of moving on the kids.  There is no clear evidence that it is harmful, and any relationship between frequent moving and poor outcomes for kids is related to the reason for the moving. (i.e. a kid who has to constantly move because of evictions has issues due to housing or familial stability, not moving.)

Source: I work in educational research and was a military kid.


Based on Psychological research, the first point above is correct. Bad schools only matter when parents are absent. If you help your kid with their homework every night, the type of school really doesn't matter.

For the second point, based on Psychological research, kids around ages 8-12, struggle the most with moving. They do not like change, experience anxiety from lost friendships and struggle to find new relationships. Military kids fall into this category. We even have a term for them, "military brats" That cultural phenomenon is consistent with the research. They tend to have poor social skills from so many moves as a kid.

CloserToFree

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Re: Relocating Near Work -Bad School Districts Dilemma
« Reply #11 on: October 12, 2016, 07:53:50 PM »
Is negotiating a partial work from home arrangement an option in your field of work?  Doing that one or two days a week would make the several days of commuting much more manageable (allowing you to stay in the good schools area) - but not sure if doable for you.

DBV1985

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Re: Relocating Near Work -Bad School Districts Dilemma
« Reply #12 on: October 17, 2016, 10:20:07 PM »
Hmm.. just wondering if the people that replied actually attended a lower cost of living school as students??

My family moved a lot when I was growing up from age 11-16. I attended a LCOL and HCOL middle school. Then in high school again attended both. Texas and Arizona. Luckily I turned out okay. It was not fun moving and changing environments every year. For me it was a very noticeable difference between LCOL and HCOL, especially for high schools. I felt more motivated to succeed in the suburban high school because most of the students were planning to attend college or expected to do so by their parents. The parents were much more involved with their kids. In the city high school college was not really a concern for many students. Of course it comes down to the individual student and what they choose to do with their life. I have old friends from the LCOL high school who were in AP classes and are very successful lawyers and scientist with published studies. Then I still have friends in the HCOL high school who are still living at home.

Choose wisely :)

J

TheOldestYoungMan

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Re: Relocating Near Work -Bad School Districts Dilemma
« Reply #13 on: October 20, 2016, 11:48:19 AM »
Yea, the effect of peers on a child's understanding of what is normal and acceptable is difficult to overstate.  I went to one of the poorest elementary schools in the greater houston area, but one of the nicest for middle and high school.  I don't know of a single other classmate of mine from elementary school that went to college.  I do know several are in jail and 3 have been executed by the state.  There are a number of factors, and this is one of them.

Some jobs, because of their location, just end up with a bit of a commute.

There are other jobs out there though.

Midwest

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Re: Relocating Near Work -Bad School Districts Dilemma
« Reply #14 on: October 20, 2016, 12:08:09 PM »

    • Racism: These "bad schools" are almost always predominantly minority schools and, knowingly or not, the term "bad school" is coded language for "a building full of kids I don't want my kid to interact with"

    .

    I went to a predominately white school with lower test scores and a lower socio-economic class.  I would think twice about my kid attending there or a similar school.

    It's not racism to want to avoid exposing your child to the bad elements of society (including the school I described above).   While many of my former classmates have gone on to lead very successful lives, a number of them are dead from drug overdoses and/or in and out of the system.

    The success of the schools has a lot less to do with the teachers than the parents.  Uninvolved and unmotivated parents tend to reinforce those behaviors in their children.  Some children can rise above their peers.  Some can't.  Teachers can only do so much with faced with those headwinds.