Housing Choice vs. School Choice?
First a seemingly minor news story on budget machinations in the Wilkinsburg School District encapsulate the failed state of education for many kids. See: Wilkinsburg budget cuts teachers, expands courses. In a classic example of burying the lede, the headline seems to focus on some budget ephemera, but then has this remarkable line almost in passing:
The current high school schedule offers no math beyond pre-calculus, no upper level science, English or foreign language courses, no advanced placement or computer courses and just a handful of electives.So what is the Mendoza line for secondary education in Pennsylvania? Lower than most would expect for a school in the developed world.
Then there was this story:Section 8 housing vouchers lead to limited neighborhood choices. First off, why was that only a city-centric story? Does the issue of housing end at the city's edge.. in the East End? How far is the distance from Homewood, which is mentioned in the story, to Wilkinsburg? Cartographers will understand it is a trick question.
But beyond sheer pontification, what data is relevant? Maybe the trend in the number of kids in Wilkinsburg. Here is the trend for births in Wilkinsburg since 1990. If you skip over a jump in the most recent year, it is a trend that is among the worst in the region and can only foretell greater contraction into the future.
Then I thought that might not be quite fair and the question is how the Wilkinsburg trends compare in some greater context. So here is birth data indexed to 1990 for Wilkinsburg, the city of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County net of the city of Pittsburgh.
Now that jump in 2012 for births in Wilkinsburg could be part of a pretty big convergence with the trend for the city of Pittsburgh. Maybe just an anomaly from the longer trend, but what if it isn't? So here we get back to the housing story and difficulty of some to find housing in the city of Pittsburgh. Are all such folks finding housing options in other city of Pittsburgh neighborhoods? I bet not, which might explain what is going on in Wilkinsburg despite not only a barely functioning school district, but some a place charging some almost unbelievable tax rates. Merely a hypothesis, but do housing options trump school options? At least in the short run? Or for those without greater options? And does any of this relate to population trends in the city of Pittsburgh? Someone has to ask.