(Stacker) — A good school can lead to a lifetime of opportunities. Myriad data shows that lifetime earnings dramatically increase with every degree obtained. Bachelor’s degree holders will earn an average of roughly $26,000 more each year than high school graduates. And for those who decide that pursuing a college degree is not the best postsecondary option, a good school will provide students with the tools and support to make that choice, and the foundational skills necessary to succeed in the workforce.

For many families, the school district is a top criteria when deciding where to buy a home. But this consideration and ability to choose is not a luxury all families can afford, especially in today’s wildly competitive housing market.

One important proxy of a quality education is per-student spending. According to the most recent Census data available, the national average per-pupil expenditure in fiscal year 2019 was $13,187. Several recent studies suggest that increased spending per student correlates with higher academic achievement, particularly in districts serving predominantly low-income students. Since public schools are largely funded by property taxes, schools in low-income areas suffer the most from a lack of funding for critical expenditures like staff salaries and benefits, transportation, instructional resources, and support services.

There are more than 13,000 school districts in the U.S., each one slightly different, for better or worse, than the next. However, several common denominators exist and, when compared, can serve as indicators of what makes an impactful district.

Stacker compiled a list of the best school districts in the tri-state using rankings from Niche. Niche ranks school districts based on a variety of criteria including academics (SAT/ACT scores and state proficiency tests), teacher salaries, expenses per student, and access to extracurricular activities.

Iowa

#10. West Des Moines Community School District (West Des Moines)
– Number of schools: 13 (9,351 students)
– Graduation rate: 93% (71% reading proficient and 75% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $68,450 (16:1 student to teacher ratio)

#9. Linn-Mar Community School District (Marion)
– Number of schools: 10 (7,937 students)
– Graduation rate: 96% (81% reading proficient and 82% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $72,255 (16:1 student to teacher ratio)

#8. Van Meter Community School District (Van Meter)
– Number of schools: 3 (895 students)
– Graduation rate: 95% (87% reading proficient and 87% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $55,198 (16:1 student to teacher ratio)

#7. Johnston Community School District (Johnston)
– Number of schools: 8 (7,517 students)
– Graduation rate: 97% (81% reading proficient and 84% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $69,754 (17:1 student to teacher ratio)

#6. Decorah Community School District (Decorah)
– Number of schools: 5 (1,766 students)
– Graduation rate: 95% (84% reading proficient and 84% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $58,883 (15:1 student to teacher ratio)

#5. MOC Floyd Valley Community School District (Orange City)
– Number of schools: 4 (1,532 students)
– Graduation rate: 92% (88% reading proficient and 83% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $64,409 (15:1 student to teacher ratio)

#4. Ankeny Community School District (Ankeny)
– Number of schools: 16 (12,394 students)
– Graduation rate: 96% (82% reading proficient and 85% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $67,768 (17:1 student to teacher ratio)

#3. Waukee Community School District (Waukee)
– Number of schools: 14 (11,518 students)
– Graduation rate: 99% (84% reading proficient and 86% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $59,996 (16:1 student to teacher ratio)

#2. Gilbert Community School District (Gilbert)
– Number of schools: 4 (1,591 students)
– Graduation rate: 95% (90% reading proficient and 93% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $71,148 (16:1 student to teacher ratio)

#1. Pleasant Valley Community School District (Bettendorf)
– Number of schools: 7 (5,244 students)
– Graduation rate: 97% (87% reading proficient and 91% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $62,711 (17:1 student to teacher ratio)

Nebraska

#10. Elmwood-Murdock Public Schools (Murdock)
– Number of schools: 2 (472 students)
– Graduation rate: 90% (74% reading proficient and 74% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $51,269 (12:1 student to teacher ratio)

#9. Lincoln Public Schools (Lincoln)
– Number of schools: 73 (42,258 students)
– Graduation rate: 82% (56% reading proficient and 56% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $55,237 (13:1 student to teacher ratio)

#8. Bennington Public Schools (Bennington)
– Number of schools: 6 (3,288 students)
– Graduation rate: 92% (74% reading proficient and 73% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $51,068 (17:1 student to teacher ratio)

#7. Gretna Public Schools (Gretna)
– Number of schools: 8 (5,838 students)
– Graduation rate: 98% (68% reading proficient and 74% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $50,845 (16:1 student to teacher ratio)

#6. Chadron Public Schools (Chadron)
– Number of schools: 4 (976 students)
– Graduation rate: 92% (59% reading proficient and 62% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $52,652 (13:1 student to teacher ratio)

#5. Diller-Odell Public Schools (Odell)
– Number of schools: 2 (237 students)
– Graduation rate: 90% (72% reading proficient and 72% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $55,154 (9:1 student to teacher ratio)

#4. Westside Community Schools (Omaha)
– Number of schools: 14 (6,094 students)
– Graduation rate: 89% (60% reading proficient and 59% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $57,643 (14:1 student to teacher ratio)

#3. Pender Public Schools (Pender)
– Number of schools: 2 (393 students)
– Graduation rate: 90% (77% reading proficient and 87% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $54,312 (11:1 student to teacher ratio)

#2. Millard Public Schools (Omaha)
– Number of schools: 36 (24,038 students)
– Graduation rate: 93% (66% reading proficient and 65% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $55,568 (16:1 student to teacher ratio)

#1. Elkhorn Public Schools (Elkhorn)
– Number of schools: 17 (10,322 students)
– Graduation rate: 97% (82% reading proficient and 84% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $52,076 (16:1 student to teacher ratio)

South Dakota

#10. Bowdle School District (Bowdle)
– Number of schools: 3 (117 students)
– Graduation rate: No data available (55% reading proficient and 45% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $37,478 (7:1 student to teacher ratio)

#9. Timber Lake School District (Timber Lake)
– Number of schools: 3 (363 students)
– Graduation rate: No data available (67% reading proficient and 62% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $43,152 (10:1 student to teacher ratio)

#8. Canistota School District (Canistota)
– Number of schools: 3 (222 students)
– Graduation rate: No data available (72% reading proficient and 67% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $42,491 (11:1 student to teacher ratio)

#7. Elk Point-Jefferson School District (Elk Point)
– Number of schools: 3 (684 students)
– Graduation rate: 90% (67% reading proficient and 54% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $46,377 (15:1 student to teacher ratio)

#6. Sioux Falls School District (Sioux Falls)
– Number of schools: 44 (25,196 students)
– Graduation rate: 84% (50% reading proficient and 43% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $48,785 (16:1 student to teacher ratio)

#5. Platte-Geddes School District (Platte)
– Number of schools: 5 (501 students)
– Graduation rate: 90% (74% reading proficient and 60% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $48,146 (12:1 student to teacher ratio)

#4. Warner School District (Warner)
– Number of schools: 3 (312 students)
– Graduation rate: 90% (77% reading proficient and 77% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $46,717 (15:1 student to teacher ratio)

#3. Dakota Valley School District (North Sioux City)
– Number of schools: 4 (1,381 students)
– Graduation rate: 92% (60% reading proficient and 53% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $49,462 (16:1 student to teacher ratio)

#2. Hill City School District (Hill City)
– Number of schools: 3 (463 students)
– Graduation rate: 90% (65% reading proficient and 54% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $52,287 (14:1 student to teacher ratio)

#1. Brandon Valley School District (Brandon)
– Number of schools: 7 (4,464 students)
– Graduation rate: 95% (72% reading proficient and 66% math proficient)
– Average teacher salary: $49,540 (18:1 student to teacher ratio)