‘No’ Vote May Hit You Where You LiveBy Mike Hill
I’m not qualified to talk about the quality of school systems in Valdosta or Lowndes County, probably a rare admission these days. I am qualified to talk about the damage done to Valdosta residential real estate by the perception that one system is better than the other. It ain’t pretty and it’s getting worse.
I’ve been a Realtor since 1976, when newcomers couldn’t house hunt until they rolled in with the kids, dogs and all the furniture looking for yard signs and a local newspaper, which led them to agents and property managers, who then sold or rented them a home. Boy, has that changed!
I’ve got friends teaching or retired from both city and county systems who tell me that a good education is available from either system for students who want one. But newcomers concerned about their children’s education have consistently been getting a different message long before they ever see a “sale” or “rent” sign here.
Unlike even 10 years ago, Internet magic now allows newcomers to arrive armed with all the statistical knowledge our two school boards provide, plus state and federal statistics. And right or wrong, the perception those statistics create that one system is better or worse than the other travels like gossip between anybody anywhere in the world with an Internet connection who has or can create the slightest link to anybody in Valdosta/Lowndes County with one.
How do I know this? Because families walking into my real estate office to buy or rent “in the county school district” who have never been here before has been consistently increasing for years. Newcomers concerned about their children’s education will sacrifice a garage or fenced yard from the “wish list” for their new home, plus make higher payments, for a county location. It irks me that retired city school superintendent Sam Allen has publicly accused Realtors of adding to a problem that started well before he retired from the city school system. Realtors, he has publicly stated, avoid showing houses for sale in city school districts.
Space isn’t available to address the absurdity of that statement, except to quote the other side of the Golden Rule: “He who has the gold rules.” The Realtor doesn’t drive to showings; she just turns the wheel and hits the gas. The client started driving the car the minute he got into the passenger seat with his checkbook and knew where he wanted to go before he and his family came to town. Accurate or not, perceptions about differences in our split school system exist, with serious consequences in several different directions that aren’t going away. Industries may avoid us, for instance, and we’ll never know how many jobs we lost. In real estate, “perception” makes the value of a house on the city side of a street worth less than an identical house on the county side of the street.
Neither of those things are good and without change, it’s not going to get any better, either.