Most Allegheny County school districts have shrinking enrollments

Student walking up school stairs

Allegheny County is home to school districts that had both Pennsylvania’s fastest growing and fastest declining enrollments over the past five years.

South Fayette Township School District, in southern Allegheny County, grew by more than 17 percent since the 2011-12 school year. It is consistently rated as one of the best school districts in the state, but has also raised property taxes every year during the past decade, as we reported last week.

South Fayette’s growth is a rarity in the county and state. Less than a quarter of the county’s school districts increased enrollment in the past five years.

It’s a similar ratio statewide.

Wilkinsburg School District’s enrollment declined by more than 31 percent over five years. Its seventh through 12th grade students began the new school year Monday at Westinghouse Academy in Homewood, which is part of Pittsburgh Public Schools.

Wealthier school districts like Bethel Park and Fox Chapel also have falling enrollments.

Public schools in Allegheny County now serve 20 percent fewer students than they did when enrollments hit a recent peak in the 1998-99 school year. That was when more than 171,000 students were enrolled in public schools. Last year, it was slightly more than 138,000 students.

Over that period, county school enrollment declined at nearly twice the rate of statewide enrollment.

School districts trying to downsize efficiently are also attempting to pay for ballooning pension costs. School pension costs have been increasing so quickly that many Pittsburgh-area school districts owe millions of dollars more than they did a few years ago.

Increasing costs have meant that some local school districts have had to raise property taxes every year. Others have foregone yearly tax increases. They’ve cut unpopular programs, furloughed staff or consolidated schools.

Pennsylvania school employees have always paid a steady amount into the pension system. It was the state Legislature that, for many years, didn’t contribute enough money to keep the system afloat.

Below is a table of Allegheny County student enrollment for the past five years. To see tables of Allegheny County enrollments for the past 20 years, or for 20 years of enrollments for every school district in Pennsylvania, click here.

 

Allegheny County school enrollments

 

Allegheny County School Districts 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 Percent change
South Fayette Township SD 2,548 2,713 2,793 2,877 2,996 17.58%
Avonworth SD 1,517 1,525 1,541 1,557 1,610 6.13%
West Jefferson Hills SD 2,790 2,813 2,831 2,802 2,866 2.72%
Deer Lakes SD 1,951 1,936 2,008 1,988 1,996 2.31%
North Hills SD 4,232 4,231 4,248 4,271 4,314 1.94%
Clairton City SD 750 793 785 794 764 1.87%
West Allegheny SD 3,271 3,263 3,258 3,230 3,328 1.74%
Mt Lebanon SD 5,278 5,275 5,244 5,305 5,356 1.48%
Moon Area SD 3,679 3,743 3,723 3,771 3,720 1.11%
North Allegheny SD 8,199 8,190 8,281 8,215 8,186 -0.16%
Baldwin-Whitehall SD 4,197 4,135 4,117 4,131 4,179 -0.43%
Pine-Richland SD 4,624 4,650 4,621 4,595 4,582 -0.91%
Northgate SD 1,207 1,210 1,228 1,225 1,193 -1.16%
Upper Saint Clair SD 4,138 4,189 4,133 4,089 4,063 -1.81%
Montour SD 2,896 3,030 2,802 2,793 2,843 -1.83%
Highlands SD 2,672 2,599 2,500 2,481 2,622 -1.87%
Elizabeth Forward SD 2,415 2,419 2,355 2,346 2,354 -2.53%
Chartiers Valley SD 3,447 3,437 3,370 3,309 3,359 -2.55%
Cornell SD 657 646 646 649 639 -2.74%
Carlynton SD 1,426 1,394 1,429 1,379 1,380 -3.23%
Penn Hills SD 3,987 3,903 3,908 3,986 3,851 -3.41%
Quaker Valley SD 1,943 1,936 1,960 1,941 1,873 -3.60%
Sto-Rox SD 1,383 1,330 1,419 1,335 1,333 -3.62%
McKeesport Area SD 3,763 3,556 3,507 3,530 3,614 -3.96%
Fox Chapel Area SD 4,349 4,308 4,245 4,224 4,171 -4.09%
West Mifflin Area SD 2,990 3,014 2,996 2,904 2,866 -4.15%
South Allegheny SD 1,566 1,574 1,572 1,539 1,485 -5.17%
Plum Borough SD 4,037 3,989 3,975 3,863 3,817 -5.45%
Woodland Hills SD 4,048 3,992 3,846 3,828 3,824 -5.53%
Hampton Township SD 3,090 3,083 3,027 2,952 2,910 -5.83%
Brentwood Borough SD 1,278 1,218 1,181 1,205 1,202 -5.95%
Riverview SD 1,035 1,027 1,031 998 967 -6.57%
Allegheny Valley SD 1,025 1,009 991 943 956 -6.73%
Shaler Area SD 4,797 4,654 4,629 4,559 4,460 -7.03%
Bethel Park SD 4,621 4,557 4,452 4,305 4,258 -7.86%
Pittsburgh SD 26,653 26,292 26,041 24,657 24,190 -9.24%
Keystone Oaks SD 2,079 2,076 1,987 1,955 1,876 -9.76%
East Allegheny SD 1,831 1,739 1,692 1,635 1,650 -9.89%
Gateway SD 3,780 3,599 3,498 3,430 3,365 -10.98%
South Park SD 2,079 2,069 1,968 1,888 1,824 -12.27%
Steel Valley SD 1,800 1,710 1,647 1,535 1,458 -19.00%
Duquesne City SD 409 354 366 345 326 -20.29%
Wilkinsburg Borough SD 1,100 1,015 932 896 756 -31.27%

Reach Eric Holmberg at 412-515-0064 or at eholmberg@publicsource.org. Follow him on Twitter @holmberges.