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Pittsburgh Public Schools sees a decline in enrollment, which affects funding

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Sarah Schneider
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90.5 WESA

On today’s program: Education reporter Sarah Schneider explains the potential impacts of Pittsburgh Public Schools’ student enrollment declined this year, and some possible reasons why; and a discussion with two speakers of the city’s first “Eradicate Hate Global Summit,” which starts today.

About 300 fewer kindergarteners are attending Pittsburgh Public Schools than usual
(0:00 - 6:22)

Pittsburgh Public Schools has seen a decline in enrollment this academic year.

It comes on the heels of the pandemic, a transportation shortage and the departure of the district’s Superintendent after an ethics investigation.

“We know that enrollment did dip below 20,000 students,” says WESA education reporter Sarah Schneider. “We do think that about 1,900 students are not in Pittsburgh Public anymore.”

Schneider says it’s not clear where students previously in the district are attending school instead. There is a decline throughout all grades, but the largest drop in enrollment is in kindergarten.

“Typically PPS sees about 1,800 kindergarteners every year. Last year there were 1,400, and this year there are about 1,500,” says Schneider.

One possibility is parents are keeping students out of school until they’re required to attend at age 6, out of concern for health. Another consideration is that parents are enrolling their students in charter schools.

One education leader told Schneider other kindergarten programs are growing, contrary to the situation with PPS.

“Consistently we’re seeing families leave Pittsburgh altogether,” says Schneider. “That could be in part driven by choices in education.”

Pittsburgh hosts its inaugural ‘Eradicate Hate Summit’ 
(6:25 - 22:30)

October 27 marks the three-year anniversary of the worst hate-fueled antisemitic attack in the United States history when 11 worshippers were killed at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill.

This week, Pittsburgh is hosting the inaugural Eradicate Hate Global Summit at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

“The idea for this summit first arose within days after the killings,” says Laura Ellsworth, partner-in-charge of global community service initiatives at Jones Day and a co-chair of the summit. “I thought to myself, I want this city to be remembered for how it responded to hate, not how it was victimized by hate.”

Ellsworth says the thought grew into an idea for a conference that would bring people together across disciplines and borders to fight hate and extremism.

Seamus Hughes is a speaker at the summit and deputy director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University. He says that Pittsburgh is unique in the productive approach it took after the Tree of Life attack.

“It's understandable that people want to take a step back after a mass casualty, a mass-murdering event,” he says. “But very few kind of want to take the next step to try to prevent the next one.”

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in Monday to Thursday at 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts. 

Corrected: October 18, 2021 at 12:51 PM EDT
This story was updated to correct the age at which students are required to attend school in Pennsylvania. The audio has also been updated to reflect this change.
Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm
Marylee is the editor/producer of The Confluence, the daily public affairs show on WESA. She got her start in journalism at The Daily Reveille and KLSU while attending Louisiana State University. She took her passion for audio journalism to UC Berkeley's graduate program and worked in public radio at WPR in Madison, WI, and WOSU in Columbus, Ohio.
Laura Tsutsui is a producer for The Confluence, WESA's morning news show. Previously, she reported on the San Joaquin Valley with the NPR affiliate station in her hometown of Fresno, California. She can be reached at ltsutsui@wesa.fm.
Rebecca Reese is a production assistant for The Confluence.
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