Why school zoning should go

November 9th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

What a difference a zone makes. In this case, try $500,000.

Experts say there has always been a difference in price for properties located within the double-grammar zone for Auckland Grammar and Epsom Girls Grammar, but the gap is widening as the city’s average house price continues to hit record highs each month.

One Mt Eden home just 750m outside of the area went for $516,000 less than a house just up the road, valued the same but situated 250m within the zone, which cuts off south of Balmoral Rd.

It is outrageous that means that poorer families can’t get to have a chance for their kids to attend Auckland Grammar.

I’d get rid of school zoning, and allow the popular schools to expand to whatever size they wish to be. They could do satellite campuses. You could have a reserve power for the Ministry to direct a school to take a student if they can’t get into any school say within 10 kms of where they live.

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19 Responses to “Why school zoning should go”

  1. peterwn (3,160 comments) says:

    Funny that parents will effectively pay more overall for their kids to attend the ‘Grammars’ than they would for Kings, St Kents, Dio or St Cuths, even including their fees.

    IMO there is only one way to make the Grammar problem go away – sell the two schools to the highest bidder and use the proceeds to develop a new secondary school on Corrections Mt Eden land.

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  2. campit (462 comments) says:

    If a local school isn’t as attractive as a school on the other side of town, would it not make more sense to fix the local school?

    [DPF: You can't wave a wand. Are you proposing that the Govt should sack the entire Board, principal and staff of schools that are not doing well?]

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  3. wreck1080 (3,730 comments) says:

    That 2 million dollar house would have been worth maybe 300-400k back in the mid 90′s, back when i was looking at Auckland housing.

    Hindsight is great.

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  4. Fentex (867 comments) says:

    You could have a reserve power for the Ministry to direct a school to take a student if they can’t get into any school say within 10 kms of where they live.

    You mean a zone?

    State funded schools, it seems fairly obvious to me, ought accept children living nearby. It seems preposterous to suggest they shouldn’t.

    But I also think it’s preposterous that they should only accept children from nearby – a certain proportion of their pupils should be accepted from a larger region. Not just so success may be shared and honed by competition but also so those schools that through whatever circumstance or accident (such as self reinforcing reputation) have a speciality are open to pupils seeking excellence in those subjects.

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  5. slightlyrighty (2,496 comments) says:

    School zoning not only artificially inflates prices, but also preserves jobs for teachers no matter how bad they are. Imagine being in a job where the work is guaranteed, no matter how inefficiently you perform, because your clients are mandated by law.

    Getting rid of school zoning would reduce average house prices overnight.

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  6. KapitiCoast (114 comments) says:

    I bought my house 10yrs ago and the big selling point was it was in the Zone of 2x primary schools and a college. I don’t have any kids and was just interested if it was secure for my dog (fully fenced and secure so he couldn’t escape and visit the local schools for a pat/attention and some of their lunches, Labrador!…if you have one you know how food obsessed they are)…My house QV has gone from 95K in 2003 to 245K now. Good for me (all houses have risen I know), has it risen so quickly BECAUSE of the school catchment?…I have no idea….but can’t see Council raising QV so much because it’s dog secure :)…I have added no extra rooms/improvements that would warrant such a change in QV by the way.

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  7. Rightandleft (636 comments) says:

    I find it incredible that parents really think the Grammars are that much better than other local high schools. Boys Grammar uses a particular old-school style of teaching that I personally favour but which doesn’t work for all boys. I also think schools should be able to accept a certain percentage of their roll from outside their zone, which is essentially what happens now. When school zones were eliminated in the 90s though it caused enough problems that it was National which restored them in 1998.

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  8. HB (288 comments) says:

    slightlyrighty “School zoning not only artificially inflates prices, but also preserves jobs for teachers no matter how bad they are. Imagine being in a job where the work is guaranteed, no matter how inefficiently you perform, because your clients are mandated by law.”

    I am not sure what you mean by this?
    Just because you live in the ‘Grammar Zone’ or any other zone it does not mean you have to go to that school.
    I live in my city’s zone for the local Girls’ High but my girls go to a co-ed school that is a 15 minute drive away. We are way out of zone for the school they attend.

    Or did you mean something else?

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  9. thor42 (916 comments) says:

    I agree – zoning should go.

    If the popular schools want to expand, then great! So be it. The “satellite campus idea is good – they could look at taking over other schools in the neighbourhood that are not as popular.

    *Surely* this is a win all around – good schools are able to expand, bad ones are encouraged to allow a good school to take over and many more children are able to get a good education.

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  10. suzie q (25 comments) says:

    Use the “change” to send them to a private school, that’s what I’d do anyway. Still live in good area and get the better education – tick, tick.

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  11. burt (7,812 comments) says:

    In the top school zones it is possibly cheaper to live out of zone and send your kids to a top private school than to buy in zone.

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  12. Psycho Milt (2,265 comments) says:

    The 500 Gs is basically a stupidity tax on people with lots of money but low intelligence. It’s a shame, but the scam isn’t one being perpetrated on them by the education system.

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  13. ionmannz (5 comments) says:

    The problem with abolishing zoning is that schools then don’t have to accept students living nearby who might be mild mannered and polite and friendly but not particularly academic. Nor would they be likely to enrol autistic or special needs children. Cherry-picking the outstandingly bright or particularly sporty student from “out of zone” and then claiming “what a great job we do and look at our results / sports scores” hardly seems fair. Zoning is not fair to all but neither is open slather “no zoning”. You say that “school zoning means that poorer families can’t get to have a chance for their kids to attend Auckland Grammar”. Well they probably wouldn’t have a chance – the fees alone would be prohibitive for starters as would activity fees and the cost of them to travel out of zone. Is this debate about education or house prices? They are quite different. A school’s reputation is to a large extent about perception. No doubt Auckland Grammar does a great job, but so do many other schools. I wonder if there is a degree of “snob factor” about attending a certain school perceived to be good? It must be good because it’s in the Grammar Zone? On balance zoning is probably the fairer of the two scenarios.

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  14. burt (7,812 comments) says:

    Psych Milt

    Oh yes, the stupid people who way more than average are so much more stupid than the teachers union who claim all schools are the same…. Yes we understand ….

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  15. peterwn (3,160 comments) says:

    campit and DPF – In UK the authorities will if need be disband a failed school and re-establish it with refurbished buildings and new board, principal and staff. They often have the luxury of doing this as population densities are such that surrounding schools can absorb the displaced pupils. There was a book written by a retired principal several years ago who was brought in to turn around such a school where disbanding was a serious option. She used all her skills to get prominent people to visit the school to discuss careers like inviting Cherie Blair to talk to the senior pupils about law as a career.

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  16. burt (7,812 comments) says:

    Peterwn

    We couldn’t do that here – not all kids can be lawyers you know and it’s not fair on all of them to talk about options that might not suit them.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the teachers union wanted to talk to kids about their two options on leaving school – becoming teachers or breeding on a benefit.

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  17. campit (462 comments) says:

    [DPF: You can't wave a wand. Are you proposing that the Govt should sack the entire Board, principal and staff of schools that are not doing well?]

    Well, no, but the Ministry of Education could make some pretty key changes to any school without sacking everybody.

    Equally I think your idea of letting the popular schools to expand to whatever size they wish to be is a bit simplistic. The Ministry of Education has a pretty poor record of capacity planning in Auckland (e.g. Pt Chev Primary School fiasco, which is now back to square one), so it will probably aways be necessary to restrict the intake of pupils by some means – geography, ability to pay, student results, student needs.

    It is outrageous that school zoning means that poorer families can’t get to have a chance for their kids to attend Auckland Grammar.

    I’m not convinced that poorer kids would have any more chance of Auckland Grammar without zoning than they do now. What would the pupil selection criteria be without zoning in the mix? Presumably a lottery like they do now for out of zone pupils, with a preference for the children of Old Boys. The school “donation” of $1050 is prohibitive for poor families as well.

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  18. burt (7,812 comments) says:

    campit

    I suspect $500k in real estate premium is a lot more prohibitive than $1050 in fees compared to a few hundy at a less desirable school.

    The problem with real estate values as a proxy for school entry is that it allows a massive distortion with no chance of moderation. This unintended consequence of a well meaning policy is simply ignored by policy makers. Still if socialist can completely ignore that their ideology always fails – what chance have we got if getting them to look at individual policies.

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  19. slightlyrighty (2,496 comments) says:

    HB.

    Having a home in the zone for a school that is considered “the right school” is a factor in the price asked and paid. A home zoned for Wellington College will be advertised as such to get a higher price. I have also seen homes outside the Wellington College zone advertised as being in the college zone to get a higher price.

    Now if being in a particular zone means nothing to a house price, then why advertise it?

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