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Wine Country, Good, Bad and Different

School Bus Image

I saw an article today in the Napa Valley Register, about Napa Valley schools needing to cut about 9% of their budget and it got me thinking about a few things.

First, the full disclosure, my wife is a high school counselor, so the K-12 education system in California isn’t new to me and I do have more than a passing interest in this stuff as a father of boys and generally, as a California resident.

Ok, so the level of outside investment into Napa Valley is huge right? How many folks buying houses in Napa, especially the upper valley made their money somewhere in Napa, or even the North Bay itself? The numbers I’m certain are pretty small.

Outside investment is a good thing right? The problem for a school district, which makes an inordinate amount of cash from kids actually showing up at school is that folks that have made their millions already, don’t have school aged kids any longer. In California, the price per day that the state pays a school district for a child to attend school works out to about $40. In Orange County in Southern California, a school district asks for $40 if your child misses school.

Anyway, so there’s less kids per capita in Napa Valley than there would be elsewhere given the wider demographics at play.

The good of course, is that housing, like much of California, is expensive and is getting more expensive. There’s plenty of unmet demand as well.

Another issue that comes up with the Napa Valley schools is that it is still a rural district. Having kids coming from such varied parts of the valley adds an entirely different challenge that is consistent across much of the country of course, but we all have that idyllic image of walking the kids to school right?  I mean, Napa might have more schools than it otherwise would want largely based on how rural it happens to be.  Plus, that land is worth a ton these days.

Anyway, there’s a lot to talk about in terms of how the wine industry effects local communities.  Los Olivos and others across the west coast have already grappled, or are beginning to, with the idea of limiting the number of tasting rooms in small, rural areas.

No one, as it currently stands is looking at how a vibrant economy that’s being created, effects schools because that economy is based on a combination of empty nest early retirees and tourists.

The dollars are nice, but they’re going into the general coffers and not into the school district necessarily.

Every economy has built in winners and losers.  It seems in Napa, the school district might be on the losing side of how things are playing out, which is certainly unusual.


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