Everett schools vote goes beyond kids

  • By Tom Hoban Realty Markets
  • Friday, February 28, 2014 12:55pm

Everyone says they want great schools in their community. As communities mature, though, support of schools often wanes and it affects more than just the classroom experience.

In examining where to put their money, many investors say the make-up of the local school board and the direction of the school district generally can be just as important as the mayor and who is on the city council. Kelly Price, a developer in the Puget Sound region, explains the value of schools in plain terms.

“We’ve built homes where there is literally a 15 percent premium for the same house across the street because it’s perceived to be in a better school district.”

He adds, “Housing supports retail and office sectors, so there’s a ripple effect that all starts because of the schools.”

That’s why the Everett Public Schools levy and bond vote in February was so important.

Like the Boeing Machinist’s vote the month prior, it was a barometer of sorts to help gauge where the community is headed.

Investors paid attention to the outcome. The levy passed, of course, but the bond portion — which requires a 60 percent majority to carry — came up short by the slimmest of margins.

Broadly speaking, the north Puget Sound offers a mixed bag of school choices when viewed from the perspective of investors and CEO types looking to place bets on the region. In the past 20 years, improvements in college preparatory options inside the public schools and the introduction of Archbishop Murphy High School, the only Catholic college prep school in Snohomish County, have made the region more attractive in this regard. And there are more options for non-college-bound students. Improving local community colleges and the University of Washington Bothell campus have also helped.

Some pockets need attention, though. The failure of the bond measure in Everett put the community on investor’s watch list.

What Everett can do about its position is part of a larger question. Over time, the city has become a place to work but because its housing stock is largely built out and aging, it struggles to compete as a place to live with newer housing stock and strong school districts all around it.

Its daytime population, to underscore the point, is nearly twice its night time population. Why people choose to drive outside Everett to live is the question.

Recent development in downtown Everett suggests demand. But to win the day with households in the sweetest demographic, schools are part of the equation. Given these realities, a second vote on Everett’s bond measure might be advisable.

Voter turnout was low in February, suggesting that voters with children in the system and a small but vocal group of naysayers fought the battle alone.

With more time to frame the issues, a broader discussion understanding the impact of school health on the community would likely draw out more voters and prove whether Everett is still about kids or is at a point where it is unable to support them.

Tom Hoban is CEO of The Coast Group of Companies. Contact him at 425-339-3638 or tomhoban@coastmgt.com or visitwww.coastmgt.com.