Opinion: Wise Investments in Evergreen, Vancouver Schools

(TNS) — A new Mountain View High School will benefit students and the surrounding community, and it stands as a testament to taxpayers’ investment in public education.

As detailed in a recent story from Columbian reporter Griffin Reilly, the school is expected to be ready for up to 2,000 students by the first day of the 2022-23 school year. While it will provide students and teachers with high-tech amenities and more comfortable learning spaces, it also will provide other perks.

So, too, will other new schools throughout Evergreen Public Schools, which includes Mountain View, and Vancouver Public Schools. The districts — the largest in Clark County — have embarked on ambitious construction projects over the past couple years, thanks to an electorate that approved bond measures in each district.

Voters in the Evergreen district supported a $695 million capital facilities bond in 2018 with 61 percent of the vote. In 2017, voters in the Vancouver district approved a $458 million bond with 70 percent of the vote. A supermajority of 60 percent is required to pass bond measures in Washington.

The fruits of those investments can be seen throughout the region. Vancouver is preparing to open the Vancouver Innovation, Technology and Arts Elementary School near downtown, and numerous elementary schools and middle schools have been replaced or renovated.

Critics of public education will find fault with spending money on new buildings, but the value extends beyond the classrooms.

The National Bureau of Economic Research has found that for every $1 spent on school funding, nearby property values collectively increase by about $20. Parents will pay more for a home if they find the local schools desirable and modern.

Of course, having a new school does not automatically mean improved educational outcomes. But a 2019 study from UCLA and the University of California-Berkeley concluded, “School facility investments lead to modest, gradual improvements in student test scores, large immediate improvements in student attendance, and significant improvements in student effort.”

That not only bolsters the argument for building new schools, it puts a spotlight on Washington’s rural areas. Districts with a small tax base and little means for large construction projects find themselves unable to break a cycle of aging schools that poorly serve students and make it difficult to attract young families to the region.

The Legislature has taken some steps to equalize this disparity in recent years, but a vast chasm remains. The state also contributes to school construction through revenue from lands managed by the Department of Natural Resources.

Investment in public schools pays off. As Chalkbeat.com, an education policy website, has reported: “A 2018 overview of the research on education spending found that more money consistently meant better outcomes for students — higher test scores, higher graduation rates, and sometimes even higher wages as adults.” That impact is particularly true in low-income areas.

All of that is worth considering as Evergreen prepares to open a new Mountain View High School and as various other schools open throughout the county. It’s not about providing students with gaudy bells and whistles; it is about creating spaces that are conducive to learning and include up-to-date security and seismic protections.

The result is a benefit to our entire community.

©2022 The Columbian (Vancouver, Wash.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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