The next time you see one of those head-scratching claims that assert that bringing more third world poverty to a dying city will revitalize it, think about this news from Scranton. (Pennsylvania is usually one of the top ten states ‘welcoming’ refugees.)
And, instead of leaving this admonition to the end where you might miss it, here is what you need to do. (See my post on focusing on local and state action where one of the targets of your political action should be mayors!)
First, try to get your paper to do a study like this one about your local education department, the place where a negative impact on your community usually shows up first. It is really unusual to see an analysis like this one. If the paper won’t do it—you should do it!
Then of course use the information to ‘educate’ your elected officials.
Here is the Times-Tribune:
Scranton classrooms seat more students today than they have in at least 25 years. With 10,222 students enrolled as of last week, the district is also experiencing:
Low-income enrollment of 82.5 percent. The number is the highest in the region and up from 60 percent in 2010.
A record-high population of students requiring special education services. As of last week, nearly 23 percent of children are classified as special education students — up from 19 percent just three years ago.
A record-high enrollment of 902 students requiring English as a second language services, now called English learners, or EL. That number could climb to 1,000, or about 10 percent of the population, by the end of the year.
The growth creates unique issues, such as staffing and resources, as the district faces a deficit expected to reach $40 million by the end of the year.
“As a public school district, we are required to serve all our students, and to provide a quality education for all,” said Superintendent Alexis Kirijan, Ed.D.
District demographics mirror the city’s population. Scranton’s population has increased 1.5 percent from 2010, to 77,291, according to U.S. Census estimates released earlier this year.
The district now must educate more students as it faces growing financial problems. The state put the district on “financial watch” status in June, the first in a series of steps that could eventually lead to a takeover by a state receiver.
As enrollment increases, so do the number of students who speak a language other than English. Scranton students speak 36 different languages, and as of last week, 902 students received English support, or about 9 percent of the total population.
Some of those students escaped from war-torn countries, as their families sought a better life in the United States. Through the refugee resettlement program of Catholic Social Services, 140 refugee children were students in the Scranton School District during the 2016-17 school year. Students include former residents of Syria, Bhutan/Nepal, Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Many lived in refugee camps, without access to education.
Over the last six years, low-income enrollment in the district has increased by 37 percent. According to data released by the Pennsylvania Department of Education last week, 82.5 percent of students in the district live in low-income households, meaning the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.
For a family of four, students qualify for reduced-price meals when the annual family income is below $45,510. The students receive free meals when the annual income is below $31,980. Last year, Scranton became part of a federal program for school districts with high poverty levels, which allows all students, regardless of family income, to eat breakfast and lunch at school for free.
As poverty increases, area social service agencies see more families seeking services.
At United Neighborhood Centers of Northeastern Pennsylvania, people come in looking for assistance with rent, utilities and other necessities, said Michael Hanley, the organization’s chief executive officer. Many of the jobs available in the area do not offer a wage able to support a family, he said. [But, they keep pouring in refugees anyway!—ed]
“More and more of the people we see are the working poor,” he said. “They just can’t make it paycheck to paycheck.”
Languages spoken in the Scranton School District
Albanian, Arabic, Bulgarian, Cantonese, Chinese, Creole, Danish, Dari, English, Farsi, Filipino, French, Gujarati, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Kannada, Kinyarwanda, Lao, Mandarin Chinese, Nepali, Pashto, Persian, Portuguese, Rohingya, Russian, Serbian, Slovak-Polish, Spanish, Swahili, Tagalog, Turkish, Ukrainian, Urdu, Uzbek, Vietnamese.
This post is filed in my ‘What you can do’ category.