By Don Haddad
In the 21 years that I have been a part of St. Vrain Valley Schools, I have seen our community completely transformed through a growing economy that is fostered by robust local investment in leading industries, a strong workforce pipeline and an outstanding quality of life with a strong arts and culture sector. At the core of this success is the quality of our community’s nationally recognized public education system.
St. Vrain has become a destination district, contributing to the large amount of growth and economic development in our region. Student enrollment has grown 24% from approximately 25,000 students in 2008 to 32,000 in 2021, while enrollment in private schools has decreased over 50% since 2008. Over the past 10 years, the number of students from outside districts opting into St. Vrain Valley Schools has increased 112%, for a net increase of approximately $2.7 million.
High-quality public schools have other significant economic and social impacts. Over the course of a lifetime, a high school graduate earns $331,000 more than a student without a high school diploma, and $754,000 more if they have an associate degree. As the strength of a community’s public education system increases, the community’s productivity, income, social stability and economic development also rise, while crime rates, healthcare dependence and public service costs decrease. For every $1 invested in early childhood programs, taxpayers see an average return of $13 through increased workforce productivity and reduced future costs of crime and government assistance, and for every high school graduate, the net economic benefit to the public is $127,000.
Accordingly, in the past four years, the 8,654 students who have graduated from a St. Vrain high school will contribute an estimated $11 billion back to the economy. The quality of a neighborhood school also has an enormous influence on property values, and is one of the most important factors in a homebuyer’s decision regarding where to purchase a home. The full build-out plan for St. Vrain includes 76,550 students, and since 2008, 18,268 new housing units have been added in our geographic footprint. Our local median home sales price in 2022 is approximately $615,000, an increase of over 50% over the past five years. As we continue to grow, one thing that will be essential to the continued advancement of our community is to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to participate in our local economy, including the housing market.
As a member of the Colorado Business Roundtable’s Board of Directors, one main challenge that we have discussed is the issue of affordability. As our schools continue to thrive, our economy grows, and we continue to be beacon for business investment, we must also work together to champion creative solutions that will ensure our community is family-friendly, diverse and robust. In addition to the incredible learning opportunities available to every child in St. Vrain, I believe it is in everyone’s best interest to also increase access to affordable housing, high-quality childcare, high-paying jobs, comprehensive health care and other essential elements that foster prosperity for everyone.
We invest in the things that matter to us, but also in what we believe will provide the strongest returns. As the largest employer in the region with over 5,000 employees, St. Vrain has created almost 1,000 new full-time jobs in the past 13 years, while also greatly increasing teacher and staff pay and benefits. In the past decade, we have also opened 12 new schools, completed large expansions on 17 additional schools, and added 1,342,634 square feet of learning space across all of our communities, alongside other essential upgrades to our facilities.
With the quality of our education system so closely tied to the vitality of our community, we will continue to invest in a strong future for all families, and work in partnership with our elected officials, community leaders, business and corporate partners, and all members of our community to champion affordability and prosperity for all. This will serve to ensure a vibrant and robust economy, enhance public safety and national security, develop a quality service industry, foster a strong workforce pipeline and protect the integrity of our democracy.
Don Haddad is the superintendent of St. Vrain Valley Schools.