Promise Program Not Delivering

Pittsburgh Public Schools have released their official attendance figures for the 2009-2010 school year. While it continues the downward trend they have been experiencing for the past several years, they seem satisfied that the latest year over year decline is smaller than it had been. We remind them that given the enormous amounts of money placed by various foundations and businesses into the Pittsburgh Promise Scholarship program, the latest enrollment figures are not very promising.

When the Pittsburgh Promise program was launched to great fanfare in 2006, the enrollment stood at 30,969. The program was designed to not only keep students in the schools by promising them college scholarships if they graduated with certain grade point levels, it was also to encourage parents whose children may have attended private schools or home schooled to enroll in the public system. Given that the current figure of 26,123 represents a decline of nearly 16 percent since the program began, it looks as if that plan has failed miserably.

The fact that enrollment from the 2008-2009 school year to the current has only decreased by two percent is not much to cheer about. Considering that the City and the nation have been mired in a recession for more than a year, it could be that parents who have been squeezed by falling incomes might choose public school over a private option. It could also be that many parents who are trying to leave the City are held back by a weak real estate market and are unable to sell their houses.