Sunday, August 7, 2016

It Could Happen

Earlier this Spring HCPSS made much of a study which made the claim that:

"Superior Public School System Performance drives 1.85 Billion Economic Impact in Howard County."

(Did we we pay for this study? We probably did pay for this study. But that's another story.)

The gist of the results is the following, taken from a piece on the Howard County Schools website:

"As Students Achieve at High Levels, Home Values Rise, Jobs and Business Activity Increase"

Of course, anyone who understands what is really going on here would tell you that this entire line of reasoning is based on the faulty notion that standardized test scores are a valid measure of school success. They aren't. The only thing high test scores indicate is the economic affluence of the test-taker.

So the truth of what happens in Howard County when real estate agents steer buyers towards the areas with high tests scores is that the rich areas get richer and the poorer areas get poorer. One does not exist without the other. The economic impact is not all positive. Consolidation of wealth creates a special kind of segregation in our school system.

Into this educational food chain comes a new variable: mold. Over the last year reports of toxic mold in Howard County Schools have gone from one school to many. The struggle of Glenwood Middle School parents and teachers to get the school system to come clean about health issues posed by mold in their school has made it abundantly clear that operating in secrecy has been more important to HCPSS than the health of those they serve.

Hmm. If I were buying a house right now, I'd want to know where the mold is. I'd want my real estate agent to know. How could I possibly care who got what test scores if I could be subjecting my child(ren) to possible sinus infections, asthma, nose bleeds, chronic upper respiratory ailments, headaches, coughs, multiple hospitalizations...

In fact, with the school system's lack of transparency on these issues, maybe it would be better not to buy in Howard County at all. Let's look in neighboring jurisdictions with a better track record for transparency and accountability. I'm not going to take that risk. The stakes are too high.

Mold in schools is not a problem specific to our community. But the way that HCPSS has been handling it has caused unnecessary illness for students and staff. Because of this, they may have unwittingly created a whole new kind of "economic driver" in Howard County: driving people away.
Don't think this could happen here? Ask yourself these two questions:
  • Would you buy a house if you knew there was mold in the schools there?
  • How about if you knew the school system probably wouldn't tell you the truth if mold were discovered?
What good are those tip-top test scores and property values if we can't care for our most precious resource: our children? So if friends or family are looking for a new home in Howard County, make sure they ask their real estate agent about mold. In the schools.

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