things that really matter
Confession #2: when you become full of yourself, you lose perspective.
Let's try to correct that a bit. Is there any reason the number one story here and everywhere is not the calamity going on in the Duquesne School District? Others have been quite eloquent on the subject. Do any of the subjects we all obsess on (and I fully admit to being a purveyor of esoteric nonsense) really have any significance in comparison?
I find it odd that given all the various debates over regionalism in one form or another, the one topic that is just never touched is reform of school districts. It is just too sensitive a topic for almost any political entities to address. Yet while all the current talk is about city-county issues, the most concrete government reform going on is happening almost by accident as the Duquesne School district progresses toward disincorporation and everyone else rushes to catch up. It must be some version of the second law of thermodynamics. Has there ever been an example of government behaving in a more reactive way? It's not like this has all come out of the blue. The worst disasters are not the things that come out of nowhere, but the things you see coming but just ignore.
What can I add to any of this? Not much. But here are some factoids of note:
Duquesne School District: Per capita Income (2000) = $12,067. Median value of all owner occupied housing units (Census 2000) = $33,600.For comparison: Per capita income in the Fox Chapel School District = $37,599 (312% of Duquesne) and the median value of owner occupied housing units: $149,300 (or 444% of Duquesne).
And yes, to anticipate a counterpoint... state and federal aide offset some of that revenue disparity, but does it even come close to addressing the different needs and conditions that exist in the two communities?
If it makes sense to let the Duquesne High School close its doors, why does it not make sense to just disincorporate the entire school district... that has been a rumor for years. Let's not stop there, the logic could be extended to disincorporate the municipality of Duquesne. In a de facto sense, there are more than a few municipalities in the region that have scaled back their public services to the point they might as well not exist.
As important as this is for the students themselves, it isn't just about just them in the end. What sane person will want to move to Duquesne if it means they are forced into some proverbial crap shoot with the state deciding which neighboring school districts their children will be 'assigned' to. Is this a death sentence for the municipality as well? There have to be ramifications that have not even been thought of yet. Take the situation of neighboring West Mifflin which is slated to get some or most of the displaced Duquesne students. Those parents are angry and upset which could seem uncharitable. Yet they are placed in a very unenviable situation of having to deal with an unanticipated flood of new students on
I will admit great chagrin that someone else has found the most telling data relevant to the situation. From the inimitable Tube City Almanac there is this table of projected enrollment in the Duquesne and nearby school districts:
Projected School Enrollments,
Selected Mon-Yough Area Districts
District ’04-’05 ’14-’15 % change
Clairton City 927 530 -42.8
Duquesne City 904 687 -24.0
East Allegheny 1,920 1,868 -2.7
Elizabeth-Forward 2,901 2,178 -24.9
McKeesport Area 4,560 3,340 -26.8
Norwin 5,194 4,755 -8.5
South Allegheny 1,743 1,753 +0.01
Steel Valley 2,396 1,977 -17.5
W. Jefferson Hls 2,902 3,103 +6.9
West Mifflin Area 3,263 3,035 -7.0
Woodland Hills 5,559 4,843 -12.9
Yough 2,545 1,792 -29.6
Source: Pennsylvania Department of Education / Tube City Almanac
To which I will add one last sobering thought. I have not looked into the methodology of these projections, but I speculate they reflect a straightforward forecast of the school districts' demographics and past migration patterns. If there is some abnormal event that makes a particular district more unattractive (like the schools shutting down completely for example) the additional migration impact would not be incorporated into these numbers. So yes, that 24% projected decline in Duquesne SD enrollment is a rosy picture of the future given current events.