For more than 50 years, the suburbs north of Seattle have been attractive to families with school-age children.
The area made its name by having the answers to the top two questions when parents seek fertile ground for familial roots: low mortgage payments and good schools.
Ever since the veterans of World War II came marching home to set off the baby boom that still reverberates, affordable single-family homes and quality public schools – with plenty of room for more of both – have been the honey that drew tens of thousands of industrious middle-class worker bees to the North End.
It was a formula for success, but in recent years, the equation has become unbalanced.
The families matured and when the children – and their children – went looking for a place to continue the cycle, they found affordability was missing. Many from those subsequent generations have gone farther out – beyond the Shoreline, Edmonds and Everett school districts – taking their school-age children with them.
The great public schools are still in place, but struggling to find a new budgetary equilibrium. It isn’t surprising that school officials and parents are off balance – the change has been slow, but undeniable. The growth curve of student populations is flat, even dropping.
That doesn’t mean that the quality of the education must follow suit. It does mean that school administrators, teachers, parents and the larger community must acknowledge the demographic realities and look for ways to sustain and adapt public education to continue its critical role.
Our communities are on the cusp of an opportunity to set public education on an exciting, productive and stable path for perhaps the next five decades. Let’s not miss it by indulging in denial and lamentations for the good ol’ days.