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Americans Like Their Communities Because of Schools, but Don't Necessarily Like Schools

Americans like where they live for a number of reasons, including their local schools, even though this doesn't necessarily translate into either high regard for the schools or a proclivity to become involved in public education.

A pretty environment and good schools are more likely to make people "connect" with their communities than jobs, economic development, and low crime rates, according to a new report released by the John S. and James L Knight Foundation. But, does emotional engagement translate into practical involvement?

This new "Soul of the Community" study, conducted with Gallup, Inc., looked at why people are emotionally attached to their communities. and found that economics are less important factors than physical surroundings, social opportunities, and social institutions such as elementary, secondary, and postsecondary schools.

"Education tends to be one of the highest rated attachment drivers," according to the report. Social and cultural offerings, "openness" to people of all ages and backgrounds, and aesthetics were the other major reasons why people like where they live. Yet, just 22 percent gave high marks to the quality of local public schools. (The study did not disaggregate findings by whether or not one had children in school.)

"Leaders also have much to gain by improving perceptions of the quality of K-12 education in their communities," according to Knight and Gallup, which surveyed 43,000 Americans in 26 communities. "Not only will this increase attachment overall, but a more positive view of public schools can also help attract families that will help raise the next generation of talent in the communities."

And, perhaps, motivate community members to become more involved in their local schools.

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