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More children are heading to suburban schools

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By Christi Milligan

Bartley Danielson

Bartley Danielson

Like many cities, Wilmington is betting on an influx of millennials to work, shop and play in its central downtown district.  But what happens when they meet, love and marry?  More than half of them move somewhere else, according to U.S. Census data.

The effect is a disastrous toll on inner cities as the pull of better schools trumps city living, and families move their 5-year-olds to the burbs, according to Bartley Danielson, associate professor of finance and real estate at North Carolina State University.

Danielson has done extensive research on the concept, and said the resulting “spatial sorting” means school qualities differ, as well as income levels and property values, as those who can afford to leave do, and those who can’t, stay.

Danielson said there are about the same number of 0- to 4-year-olds as there are 5-to 9-year-olds in the United States. An examination of area public school districts offers a snapshot of where parents of 5- to 9-year-olds – the age range for elementary school – are enrolling their children:

“¢ Appoquinimink +27 percent more
5- to 9-year-olds

“¢ Brandywine +4 percent more

“¢ Red Clay +3 percent more

“¢ Colonial +1 percent more

“¢ Christina -6 percent fewer

“¢ Kennett Consolidated +9 percent more

“¢ Avon Grove +24 percent more

“¢ Unionville Chadds Ford +69 percent

“When a city loses its middle class, it loses those businesses that depend on the middle class,” said Danielson, who said the result is an economic segregation that puts better paying jobs where the wealthy live.

In Wilmington, just 42 percent of employees who work in the city also call Wilmington home, according to 2013 figures from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

Danielson believes scholarships, or a tuitioning system like that offered in Vermont, should be offered to people in low-income census tracts that would allow access to nearby public or private schools.

Delaware legislation to create the Parent Empowerment Education Savings Account Act, which would have allowed parents to use funds otherwise allocated to their resident school district, was tabled last year. Currently, Delaware public schools allow a parent to enroll their child in any school district, if there is space.

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