Clairton, Pennsylvania is a city of 8,000 people in Allegheny County that has gone from boom in the early 1980s to bust because of the decline of the area’s steel and manufacturing industries.
“In the early 1980s Clairton had three movie theaters and five car dealers, a wonderful downtown, nice restaurants,” said William Boucher, the business administrator for the Clairton public school district. “Now it’s eight pizza shops and two diners open till noon. There’s no grocery store anymore. Just a Dollar General and a Rite-Aid.”
Clairton’s population is about 75 percent white, but 75 percent of the public school population is black.
“Retired steel workers are still living in the brick bungalows they built in 1948,” Boucher said. “People do not leave. They die here. Almost 40 percent of the residents are over age 55.
“We don’t have a lot of young people,” Boucher said. “We have 980 kids in the district, 100 in kindergarten and 43 high school seniors, which gives you an indication of the problems. Because the school district doesn’t look like the community, how hard do you think it is to raise taxes?”
— Joshua Vincent