Lancaster Blog
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The High Cost of Diversity and Failure in the Lancaster School District

The High Cost of Diversity and Failure in the Lancaster School District

It’s a massive wealth transfer, plain and simple
By Trey 74 comments

The School District of Lancaster touts itself as a beacon of diversity that benefits “immensely from the wide variety of perspectives, background and cultures represented by our students.”

But the truth is it’s a massive and failing transfer of wealth from working people and homeowners, and it’s about as diverse as a Mexico/California border town.

Worse, it boasts the worst Pennsylvania System of School Assessment scores of any district in Lancaster County, while spending money on services in 38 languages and consistently failing to improve student performance for decades.

The School District of Lancaster has a whopping annual budget of $210.6 million to run its 20 school properties. This consists of twelve elementary schools, one K-12 school, four middle schools, one high school campus and two alternative schools. It employs 1,620 staff members, including administrators, teachers, counselors and support staff.

The district puts on a happy face, but the smile is phony. 

Take a look at the claim of diversity. According to the district, the population of students is 60% Hispanic, 17% black, 13% white, and 10% Asian/other. 

This is not “diversity” unless you define diversity as disproportionately and overwhelmingly Hispanic, and ridiculously, underwhelmingly white, compared to the US and to Pennsylvania. 

Neighboring Conestoga Valley School District is 72% white, 19% Asian and 3% black, while the Lampeter-Strasburg School District is 85% white, 8% Hispanic, 2% Asian and 2% black.

The School District of Lancaster is supported by the property taxes it takes from homeowners for its massive $210.6 million budget. 

The district levies the highest rate of any school district in the county, fully 21.8734 mills as of the 2019-2020 school year. (A mill is equal to $1 tax on every $1,000 of assessed value of a property).

So a homeowner in the district with a home assessed at $200,000 is paying close to $4,400 a year for this failing school district.

And it’s not the parents of the district students who are carrying the burden of this tax load.

According to the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, 80.8% of the district’s pupils lived at 185% or below the Federal Poverty level as shown by their eligibility for the federal free or reduced-price school meal programs.

Further, the large number of empty nesters and retirees who have moved to the city of Lancaster constitute a large percentage of homeowners, who are getting taxed to pay for this failing school district.

The pro-immigration American Immigration Council estimates that 1 in 5 Hispanics in the state are from illegal immigrant families, so that means upwards of 1,500 of the total student body of 11,300 may be illegal immigrants. 

And to add insult to injury, per pupil spending in the district is more than $18,638 as of the 2017 budget, which is as high as the average cost of public college tuition.

So what this is a massive wealth transfer, and without any ancillary benefit to anyone.

By comparison, Conestoga Valley School District spends about $13,000 per pupil per year, and boasts among the highest PSSA academic achievement levels. Lampeter-Strasburg spends about $16,000 per pupil and consistently boasts the highest PSSA scores in the county.

Nationally, the most recent data indicates $11,762 is spent on public education per student, according to the site which tracks and compiles government-related data. By way of comparison, New York spends more than $20,000 per student, while states like Utah and Idaho spend about a third as much.

Among other heavy costs paid for by Lancaster County homeowners is the cost serving its international and refugee-heavy student body. 

The school proudly boasts on its website that “More than 1,800 students are English Language Learners who speak 38 different native languages. Hundreds of our students are refugees from countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Syria, Poland, Ukraine, Burma, Cuba, India, Kenya, Iran and Iraq.”

All of whom require special curricula and services that divert resources away from native English-speaking students.

Notably the school district has to devote resources to teaching immigrants and other students what should already be the most basic and fundamental behavioral norms through its “Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports.” It also has an enrollment in “special education services” exceeding 20%. 

It’s basically a massive wealth transfer, with nothing in return. The School District of Lancaster is consistently ranked in the bottom 2 percentile out of the total 498 Pennsylvania districts. 

So they can’t even claim that there’s any benefit, even to the students, nor can they claim the school is underfunded.

It is, in fact, overfunded, by the majority of working and middle class white homeowners, whom if they have children, are a minority in their own school rooms, or paying a double hit when they are forced to send their kids to private schools. 

And the final hit? Imagine the number of younger married couples with children or planning to have children and want to live in Lancaster city, but are sent fleeing at the thought of subjecting their kids to the failure of the School District of Lancaster.