As population declined over the past 30 years, so did the number of students enrolled in school from age 3 through the end of high school in both Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, each losing about one in five students.
The decline is due to a loss of K-12 students. Pittsburgh was hit particularly hard with a decline of 49 percent in students in K-12 public and nonpublic schools. The decline countywide was 34 percent, but a greater proportion was in the city. Without the city, the suburban decline was 29 percent.
Today there are fewer operating public school buildings across the county. In the suburbs, there was a decline of about 22 percent in district schools; in the city, the drop was more than 35 percent.
In the Diocese of Pittsburgh, which serves a six-county area, the number of students fell from about 36,000 in 1983 to about 20,000 this past school year, a decline of 44 percent. The figures include preschool through grade 12. The number of schools fell from 165 to 91 -- a similar percentage -- in that time.
Nevertheless, some parents of school-age children now have more school choices than ever.
The early 1980s saw a growth in magnet schools -- specialized programs such as the arts and world languages -- open to students from throughout the city in Pittsburgh Public Schools.
In 1997, the state Legislature opened the door to public charter schools. Parents do not pay tuition for the schools, which are operated by their own boards. Instead, the home district pays a fee set by the state.
In 2012-13, there were 20 bricks-and-mortar charter schools in Allegheny County. In addition, students anywhere in the state could access 16 cyber charter schools.
Going against the tide are two significant increases:
• More children ages 3 and up are going to school before kindergarten.
• More students are enrolled in college.
Students who attend Pittsburgh Public Schools and bricks-and-mortar charter schools have an additional opportunity to afford college. The Pittsburgh Promise Scholarship program, begun with the high school Class of 2008, provides postsecondary scholarships of up to $40,000 for students who meet certain requirements.
Eleanor Chute: email@example.com or 412-263-1955. First Published October 6, 2013 4:00 AM