Allegheny County is home to school districts that had both Pennsylvania’s fastest growing and fastest declining enrollments over the past five years.

South Fayette Township School District, in southern Allegheny County, grew by more than 17 percent since the 2011-12 school year. It is consistently rated as one of the best school districts in the state, but has also raised property taxes every year during the past decade, as we reported last week.

South Fayette’s growth is a rarity in the county and state. Less than a quarter of the county’s school districts increased enrollment in the past five years.

It’s a similar ratio statewide.

Wilkinsburg School District’s enrollment declined by more than 31 percent over five years. Its seventh through 12th grade students began the new school year Monday at Westinghouse Academy in Homewood, which is part of Pittsburgh Public Schools.

Wealthier school districts like Bethel Park and Fox Chapel also have falling enrollments.

Public schools in Allegheny County now serve 20 percent fewer students than they did when enrollments hit a recent peak in the 1998-99 school year. That was when more than 171,000 students were enrolled in public schools. Last year, it was slightly more than 138,000 students.

Over that period, county school enrollment declined at nearly twice the rate of statewide enrollment.

School districts trying to downsize efficiently are also attempting to pay for ballooning pension costs. School pension costs have been increasing so quickly that many Pittsburgh-area school districts owe millions of dollars more than they did a few years ago.

Increasing costs have meant that some local school districts have had to raise property taxes every year. Others have foregone yearly tax increases. They’ve cut unpopular programs, furloughed staff or consolidated schools.

Pennsylvania school employees have always paid a steady amount into the pension system. It was the state Legislature that, for many years, didn’t contribute enough money to keep the system afloat.

Below is a table of Allegheny County student enrollment for the past five years. To see tables of Allegheny County enrollments for the past 20 years, or for 20 years of enrollments for every school district in Pennsylvania, click here.

Allegheny County school enrollments

Allegheny County School Districts2011-122012-132013-142014-152015-16Percent change
South Fayette Township SD2,5482,7132,7932,8772,99617.58%
Avonworth SD1,5171,5251,5411,5571,6106.13%
West Jefferson Hills SD2,7902,8132,8312,8022,8662.72%
Deer Lakes SD1,9511,9362,0081,9881,9962.31%
North Hills SD4,2324,2314,2484,2714,3141.94%
Clairton City SD7507937857947641.87%
West Allegheny SD3,2713,2633,2583,2303,3281.74%
Mt Lebanon SD5,2785,2755,2445,3055,3561.48%
Moon Area SD3,6793,7433,7233,7713,7201.11%
North Allegheny SD8,1998,1908,2818,2158,186-0.16%
Baldwin-Whitehall SD4,1974,1354,1174,1314,179-0.43%
Pine-Richland SD4,6244,6504,6214,5954,582-0.91%
Northgate SD1,2071,2101,2281,2251,193-1.16%
Upper Saint Clair SD4,1384,1894,1334,0894,063-1.81%
Montour SD2,8963,0302,8022,7932,843-1.83%
Highlands SD2,6722,5992,5002,4812,622-1.87%
Elizabeth Forward SD2,4152,4192,3552,3462,354-2.53%
Chartiers Valley SD3,4473,4373,3703,3093,359-2.55%
Cornell SD657646646649639-2.74%
Carlynton SD1,4261,3941,4291,3791,380-3.23%
Penn Hills SD3,9873,9033,9083,9863,851-3.41%
Quaker Valley SD1,9431,9361,9601,9411,873-3.60%
Sto-Rox SD1,3831,3301,4191,3351,333-3.62%
McKeesport Area SD3,7633,5563,5073,5303,614-3.96%
Fox Chapel Area SD4,3494,3084,2454,2244,171-4.09%
West Mifflin Area SD2,9903,0142,9962,9042,866-4.15%
South Allegheny SD1,5661,5741,5721,5391,485-5.17%
Plum Borough SD4,0373,9893,9753,8633,817-5.45%
Woodland Hills SD4,0483,9923,8463,8283,824-5.53%
Hampton Township SD3,0903,0833,0272,9522,910-5.83%
Brentwood Borough SD1,2781,2181,1811,2051,202-5.95%
Riverview SD1,0351,0271,031998967-6.57%
Allegheny Valley SD1,0251,009991943956-6.73%
Shaler Area SD4,7974,6544,6294,5594,460-7.03%
Bethel Park SD4,6214,5574,4524,3054,258-7.86%
Pittsburgh SD26,65326,29226,04124,65724,190-9.24%
Keystone Oaks SD2,0792,0761,9871,9551,876-9.76%
East Allegheny SD1,8311,7391,6921,6351,650-9.89%
Gateway SD3,7803,5993,4983,4303,365-10.98%
South Park SD2,0792,0691,9681,8881,824-12.27%
Steel Valley SD1,8001,7101,6471,5351,458-19.00%
Duquesne City SD409354366345326-20.29%
Wilkinsburg Borough SD1,1001,015932896756-31.27%

Reach Eric Holmberg at 412-515-0064 or at Follow him on Twitter @holmberges.

We don't have paywalls — but your support helps us bridge crucial information gaps.

Readers tell us they can't find the information they get from our reporting anywhere else, and we're glad to provide this important service for our community. We work hard to produce accurate, timely, impactful journalism without paywalls that keeps our region informed and moving forward.

However, only about .1% of the people who read our stories contribute to our work financially. Our newsroom depends on the generosity of readers like yourself to make our high-quality local journalism possible, and the costs of the resources it takes to produce it have been rising, so each member means a lot to us.

Your donation to our nonprofit newsroom helps ensure everyone in Allegheny County can stay up-to-date about decisions and events that affect them. Please make your gift of support now.

Eric Holmberg was a reporter for PublicSource between 2014 and 2016.