Seven years ago when the state assigned Duquesne’s high school students to West Mifflin, there was resistance. With responsible planning and time, though, those students — and eventually Duquesne’s middle schoolers as well — have become an integral part of the West Mifflin school community.
The host district provides more appropriate educational programs than the students were getting in the tiny Duquesne district, but West Mifflin isn’t being adequately compensated by the state for its efforts.
It was imperative that the state move Duquesne’s students; their own district was failing them and failing financially. Now, Duquesne students in grades seven through 12 attend West Mifflin on a tuition basis, with the state covering the cost.
The problem is that West Mifflin says it costs $15,000 to educate a child, but it only receives $10,655 for each Duquesne student. Students from the two communities sit side by side in classrooms, receiving the same services, so it’s preposterous to conclude that it takes fewer resources to serve some than others.
The tuition rate is just $300 higher than the amount that the state pays for Duquesne students to attend charter schools, but the charters get significantly more — a total of $31,856 per student — for those who require special education services. West Mifflin educates 62 Duquesne students with those needs, but it doesn’t receive the higher sum for them.
The disparity between costs and tuition payments, along with significant assessment reductions for the U.S. Steel Irvin Works and Century III Mall, contributed to West Mifflin’s own budget shortage, which triggered a 4-mill property tax increase in June.
West Mifflin deserves to recoup the full cost of educating the students it serves from Duquesne. It’s not fair to saddle West Mifflin’s property owner with ever-higher taxes to pay for children from Duquesne whom the state has assigned.
West Mifflin has made multiple attempts to win an increase, but so far the state only bumped up the sum by $300 per student over last year. As a result, West Mifflin now is threatening to file a lawsuit, which means more money will be spent on a legal fight that could have been used to educate students.
What a waste.