Study: Good schools good for local economy

— The investment in public education is directly benefiting the local economy, according to a new study commissioned by the Wake County Public School System and WakeEd Partnership.

“This study is confirmation of how important our local public schools are to this entire community,” Superintendent Jim Merrill said Tuesday.

With 18,000 employees, the school district is one of the county’s largest employers, and Adrienne Cole, executive director of Wake County Economic Development, said every $1 million spent on school construction projects creates about 10 jobs.

The report, which was prepared by North Carolina State University economist Mike Walden, found that each recent graduating class generated between $1.4 billion and $1.6 billion in additional lifetime income.

All of those graduates save taxpayers up to $639 million in welfare, crime and health care costs, and they add more than $86 million to local property values, according to the report.

Merrill said those numbers are sure to rise as the school system tries to increase the graduation rate to 96 percent by 2020.

The district and WakeEd Partnership split the $9,000 cost of the study, which was the first of its kind locally. Merrill said he wants taxpayers to know what kind of return they’re getting for their investment.

“It’s important for folks to realize that good schools improve the communities where they exist,” he said. “For those who refuse to accept or don’t want to consider that, I guess that’s why I always say we’re not always a consumer of public federal, state and local dollars. We also provide a return.”

The study was commissioned with taxpayers in mind, he said, not as a way to sway legislators.

“This really wasn’t a strategy for more funding,” he said. “It’s important information and should make citizens feel better about where tax dollars go.”

,The investment in public education is directly benefiting the local economy, according to a new study commissioned by the Wake County Public School System and WakeEd Partnership.

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