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Study: Investment In Wake Schools Boosts Jobs, Property Values, Spending

Wake County Superintendent Jim Merrill said the report shows investing in Wake schools has economic benefits for the county.
Jess Clark

Investment in Wake County schools is increasing property values, job growth and spending according to astudy out of N.C. State. Wake schools and a local nonprofit called Wake Ed Partnership commissioned N.C. State researcher Mike Walden to conduct the study.The study showed that every dollar invested in teacher salaries and other operating expenses resulted in $1.76 spent in the county. Every dollar spent on building and maintaining school property led to $2.23 in spending, according to the report.

Wake superintendent Jim Merrill said the report should assure the community that public schools "are not just consumers of public dollars."

"This study shows that by providing a sound academic education, Wake County Public Schools is giving taxpayers a large return on investment," he said.

WakeEd president Steve Parrott said the return on investment is especially important when considering teacher salaries.

"By providing educators with salaries commensurate to their profession, we are making our county stronger," he said.

Wake County teachers have some of the highest teacher salaries in the state, and the school board recently gave teachers raises ranging between $875 and $3,202. The county added a 3.65-percent property tax to pay for the increase.

The study also claimed improvement in student SAT scores and GPAs since 2010 led to a property value increase of $11.2 billion.

In addition, the study claimed that since high school graduates are less likely to need welfare, Medicaid or enter into the criminal justice system, each graduating class since 2010 saved the county between $565 million and $639 million in public costs.

Study author Mike Walden said he expects the economic impact of Wake schools to grow in coming years.

"We are entering, I think, a new phase in the economy where human capital, education...the cerebral skills, the cognitive skills that students and others bring to the economy will be even more crucial," he said.

Jess is WUNC's Fletcher Fellow for Education Policy Reporting. Her reporting focuses on how decisions made at the North Carolina General Assembly affect the state's students, families, teachers and communities.
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