High test scores, high graduation rates and gifted programs await them, and it costs more than $15,000 apiece to educate students in Howard County.
A new study suggests the county will double its money in the long run.
"We're talking about the value of education to our communities,” said Ellen Flynn Giles, Vice Chairman of Howard County’s Board of Education, “We have to start thinking about it in terms of an investment---not an expense."
The school system turned to arguably the top economist on the East Coast, Anirban Basu of the Sage Policy Group, to determine the county's return on its investment in education.
"The golden goose in Howard County is the school system,” Basu said. “Howard County is not home to BWI Airport, the Ravens, the Orioles, Johns Hopkins Hospital. It's not home to NIH or FDA. In fact, there aren't that many large-scale institutions in Howard County."
But people move there for the schools, and the study found the system supports more than $1.8 billion in local business sales, which is more than twice the cost of operating the district and there's more.
"What we found is that home values are higher in Howard County, because of the excellence of the schools---not just for families with kids, but for all families... for all households," Basu said.
Pricier homes translate into more taxes, more government services and a high quality of life.
Top educators say at a time when some may question the cost of spending money on public schools, the study suggests there will also be a cost if they don't.
"We're looking not just at this year's budget, but we're looking at five-year, 10-year budgets and understanding what this means," Flynn Giles said. "It's often said that education is the engine that drives the economy, and I don't think it could be truer than to say that is what happens in Howard County."
Right now, Howard County spends more than two-thirds of its budget on its schools, and this year the state will shift additional costs associated with teachers pensions and pre-kindergarten programs to local districts.