Letters in the newspaper show that emotions regarding the recent successful school referendum are still percolating. I offer the following as evidence that this measure not only benefits the elementary schools, but all Oak Parkers.

The cost of a failed referendum has long-term economic consequences for all homeowners, whether or not they have children. Better schools mean higher home values and, although all tax initiatives are painful, successful referenda help secure the long-term values of properties.

This is not just wishful thinking. Three respected economists (from George Washington University; University of California, Berkely; and University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School of Business) have studied the impact of passing a referendum on home values (“The Value of School Facilities: Evidence from a Dynamic Regression Discontinuity Design,” by Cellini, Ferreira and Rothstein; Quarterly Journal of Economics, 125 (1), February 2010, 215-261.)

The authors concluded that “passing a referendum causes immediate, sizable increases in home prices. How sizable? The research showed that buyers are willing to pay “$1.50 or more for each $1 of facility spending.” This means that, every time a house is sold after the initial approval of the referendum, the price is roughly $1.50 higher per dollar increase in the higher tax bill resulting from the referendum than it would have been without the referendum. If your taxes increase by $500, for instance, the value of your home increases by $750.

The interest that parents in Oak Park have in passing a referendum is obvious. The interest of those who do not have children, or those who feel their kids have gone through the system and are therefore not invested in the success of the referendum, is more subtle, but equally compelling.

My kids have graduated from Oak Park’s elementary and secondary schools, but my desire for great education in Oak Park is undiminished. I also want my home to have the best chance to increase in value. I am grateful for the passage of the District 97 referendum.

Jim Whalen
Oak Park

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