Families choose a place to settle down that offers opportunities in the job market and a good education for their kids. With that in mind, we asked the following questions as we analyzed cities and towns across Kansas to identify the best for young families:
- Does the city have good public schools? We measured schools’ academic performance with ratings from GreatSchools. This non-profit compares a given school’s standardized test scores to the state average to obtain a rating on a 1 to 10 scale (10 representing the highest score). Higher ratings led to a higher overall score.
- Can you afford to live there? We looked at both median home values in each city and ongoing monthly home costs, including mortgage payments, real estate taxes, insurance costs, utilities, fuel and other bills. Lower costs led to a higher overall score.
- Is the city growing and prospering? We assessed a city’s economy by looking at median household income and income growth over the last decade. Higher income and greater growth led to a higher overall score.
Andover is in the Wichita metro area, straddled between Butler and Sedgwick Counties. The local school district has been recognized several times by the National School Boards Association for its sophistication in digital education, both in terms of communication to students, parents and the community as well as district operations. Andover’s population also grew significantly last decade, by 76 percent – over 10 times the rate of the state average.
Hays is the seat of Ellis County and the largest city in northwestern Kansas, with a population of 20,000. The city is also the retail, education, entertainment and medical center of the region, with Fort Hays State University and a large regional hospital. Unemployment here is extremely low, too, at 3.4 percent.
3. Spring Hill
Spring Hill is in the Kansas City metro area, and it is home to excellent schools. Prairie Creek Elementary, in the Spring Hill district, received its second Governor’s Achievement Award last year. To earn that distinction, schools must place in the top 5 percent on statewide assessments of mathematics and reading.
Gardner is in Johnson County, near Kansas City. The local school district, Gardner Edgerton, has performed exceedingly well, with 14 of its schools winning a Governor’s Achievement Award since 2006. This award recognizes schools for their top-notch performance on standardized tests. The city’s population has also ballooned, having grown by 103 percent between 2000 and 2010.
Mulvane is part of the Wichita metro area, in Sedgwick and Sumner Counties. In and around the city are several museums, parks and even a replica of the Golden Gate Bridge, which crosses Cowskin Creek. Every August for the last century and a half, the city has hosted the Mulvane Old Settlers festival, which brings crafts, a carnival and live music to town.
6. De Soto
De Soto is a city in Johnson and Leavenworth Counties and is part of the Kansas City metro area. The local school district is among the top three in participation on the ACT. Industry has done well here, too: the Chamber of Commerce reports that retail sales have grown by 73 percent since 2002.
Eudora is a short drive from the city of Lawrence. The average commute for the working men and women in the community is just 23 minutes. In this small city of 6,300 people, residents can enjoy six parks, a community center gymnasium, an aquatic center and sports and athletic programs.
8. Overland Park
Overland Park is the second-largest city in the state, and it is just 20 minutes from downtown Kansas City. The community is no stranger to recognition. In 2012, CNNMoney called it the ninth best place to live in the United States. And, in 2009, US News & World Report called it the third-best place to grow up because of its family-friendly atmosphere.
Leawood is a suburb of Kansas City, and it is home to an award-winning school district. Earlier this year, five of Blue Valley School District’s high schools made Newsweek’s ranking of public schools. This ranking was based on several factors, including graduation rate, college acceptance, participation in advanced coursework and test scores on everything from the ACT to AP exams.
Abilene is the seat of Dickinson County, in central Kansas. President Dwight D. Eisenhower grew up here, and a library and museum now commemorate his life and achievements. In addition to its heritage, Abilene takes pride in its small-town atmosphere, with Victorian homes spotting its quiet streets.
|Rank||City||Nearest big city||GreatSchools rating||Median home value||Monthly owner costs||Median household income||Growth,’99-’11||Overall score for young families|
|3||Spring Hill||Kansas City||7||$159,100||$1,483||$66,538||47.7%||70.3|
|6||De Soto||Kansas City||8||$211,100||$1,621||$60,948||31.3%||68.1|
|8||Overland Park||Kansas City||8||$224,200||$1,720||$71,612||15.3%||62.6|
The overall score for each city was derived from the following measures:
- GreatSchools city rating. GreatSchools city ratings are calculated by averaging the weighted overall rating for each school in the city (weighted by the number of students enrolled at the school)
- Median home value from the U.S. Census (2011 ACS, data set DP04, half-weighted)
- Monthly homeowner costs from the U.S. Census (2011 ACS, data set DP04, half-weighted)
- Median household income from the U.S. Census (2011 ACS, data set DP03, half-weighted)
- Income change between 1999 and 2011 from the U.S. Census (data sets P053 and DP03, half-weighted)
61 Kansas cities and areas designated as places by the U.S. Census were included in this analysis. Only places with a population greater than 5,000 were considered.
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