Raleigh, N.C. — Lynn Stellings, a local real estate agent with Fonville-Morisey, always knows the first question she will get from any family looking to relocate to Wake County: "Where will my child go to school?"
"It is the most important factor in making a decision on a home, and unfortunately, I cannot tell them anymore," she said.
Stellings says that it is not because of recent discussions to revisit the student assignment plan again, but it's because people moving to the area are finding that the schools they are interested in have no room for new students, at least as the plan currently stands.
"Newcomers do not trust the Wake County Public School System," she said.
The plan has also presented some problems for people looking to sell homes. For example, she says, one client decided not to sell because he already knew that the schools in his area were full and was worried that that would deter buyers.
That's part of the reason that the school board this week voted 5-4 to revisit the barely year-old plan for the 2013-14 school year and to integrate elements of the previous longstanding student assignment plan into it.
Steve Parrott, president of Wake Education Partnership – a group of business leaders working to better public education – says he agrees with studying ways to improve the controlled-choice plan, but he doesn't want the school board to rush to judgment in selecting a plan based solely on addresses.
"We have a concern about simply saying, 'This is where you would be assigned based on your address,'" he said. "The fine print may have to say 'to the extent there are seats available.'"
Parrott says it's important to not drastically change the foundation of the plan from year to year.
"If we begin making changes before we have even implemented it, we are concerned about it," he said.
Marrio Harris, a father of two, says he just wants consistency.
"It's a little frustrating, aggravating," he said. "I'm very anxious to see some stability."
Stellings says that, for her clients, discussions about changes are the right direction.
"I was delighted to hear that they were going to revisit the plan," she said.
Stacey Anfindsen, President of the Raleigh Regional Association of Realtors, says the group hasn't taken a stance yet on revisiting the assignment plan.
"There is no data to tell if the new assignment policy is adverse, beneficial or neutral on the residential market," he said.