Get Parents to Choose Your Schools

By Lawrence Hardy

"You Do the Math," said the subdivision brochure. "Discipline problems, school crowding, and poor student performance are causing budget requests to skyrocket in the [Charlotte]-Mecklenburg County School System. This means higher property taxes for everyone. ..."

The solution? Come to Verdict Ridge, N.C., a "golf and country club community" some 15 miles north of Charlotte. Here, in homes priced from $300,000 to $1 million, your tax rate will be lower, and your children can attend the first-rate Lincoln County Schools, where people "care about your child's education."

"It made my blood boil," says Louise Woods, a school board member for Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

But was it true?

"We're just stating the facts like anyone else," says Scott Knox, the development's general manager, referring to the newspaper insert he distributed this spring. "We just probably state them more bluntly than most people."

"More bluntly" is right. While "the facts" can be endlessly debated -- Woods contends students have comparable test scores, and can get just as good an education, in Charlotte-Mecklenburg -- Knox's irreverent brochure tapped into a nationwide phenomenon in an age of accountability and school choice. Parents are more sophisticated than ever about selecting schools for their children, and school districts must be more attuned to their needs. 

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