Program Report: Dr. Bartley Danielsen: Family Migration, Schools & CPR

Dr. Bartley Danielsen, professor of finance and real estate in the Poole College of Business at North Carolina State University, spoke to the club about his research on the relationships between school choices, economic development, and quality of life.  He received his Ph.D. from the University of Florida and taught at DePaul University in Chicago before moving to NCSU.  Teaching in Chicago and having access to the amenities of one of America’s most vibrant cities was a delight.  But he was living in Napierville, a medium-sized city about thirty miles from his university.  For seven years he endured the commute, until he was diagnosed with diabetes, one of whose major risk factors is long commutes and was a major incentive to moving to North Carolina.

The Napierville story, however, was the impetus for a developing research interest.  Napierville had an increasingly large percentage of young children, five to nine years old.  His research led him to conclude that better schools were a powerful inducement for families to move.  In fact, he concluded that school choice was a more powerful motivator than work location.  People were more concerned about their children’s commutes than their own.

His research has led him to compare communities whose percentages of young children were increasing compared with communities whose young populations were declining, and to figure out where people were moving.  Kansas City was one example he cited for a declining percentage of young children.  Atlanta was another.   Fewer people live in Atlanta today than in 1966.  The greater metropolitan area, on the other hand, has exploded.  Neighboring Orange County is seeing a growth in the number of families with young children while Durham is losing similar families.  He concludes they key to this is how communities and families value education.

Other examples include Vermont, a state which has 200 school districts of which seventy-three have no schools.  Instead, the latter districts provide tuition for families to use to send their children to schools of their choice.  Santa Ana, California, was another example he cited.  When a neighboring school district decided to close down it highly successful arts immersion curriculum, Santa Ana, a community with a very large minority demographic, jumped at the chance to obtain the program.  The result has been a revitalized downtown, increased property values, and, according to Forbes magazine, the fourth safest city in America.  Charter schools were so popular in Florida that the legislature changed the state’s laws to allow developers to reserve fifty percent of the seats in the charter schools they established.

As President Seth pointed out in conclusion, schools are not just an education issue but a development issue as well.

Dr. Danielsen was introduced by Rotarian Michael Kriston.

Submitted by Allen Cronenberg

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