What a Difference Fifteen Miles Can Make

Detroit has its 8 Mile Road, made famous by Eminem in the movie 8 Mile. Since the mid-20th century it has served as a physical and cultural dividing line between the wealthier, predominantly white northern suburbs of Detroit and the poorer, predominantly black city.

Well it turns out we have our own version of 8 Mile Road right here in Delaware County, PA, where I live.

Based  on a report from U.S. News & World Report, Radnor High School was rated the third best high school in the state, and one of only five high schools in the state to earn a gold medal of honor.

Travel just fifteen miles down Route 476 to Route 3 to Lansdowne Avenue and you arrive in Darby Borough, just ranked as the No. 2 most dangerous city in the nation by the National Council for Home Safety and Security.

How can one county have such a startling difference, and more importantly, what can be done to fix such a disparity?

As of 2007, the median income for a family in Radnor was $113,601; in Darby, the median income for a family was $30,065 (based on the 2000 census).

According to Zillow, the median home value in Radnor is $734,513. The median home value in Darby is $73,242.

The school taxes per student in Radnor are over $18,000 per year; in Darby it is just over $8,000 per student.

I could go on and on, but I think the message is clear, Radnor and Darby are two very different places economically and educationally. Yet they are both in the same county. And we can see the results of such economic disparity.

The kids going to school in these two districts had nothing to do with that decision, it was just the luck of birth to parents living in those districts that  had them end up at one place or the other.

Should the luck of birth generate such disparities, even within the same county?

Again, I ask, how could we let this happen, and what can be done to fix it.

I’ve suggested before that wealthier school districts should share their resources with the poorer school districts.

That may or may not be the right solution, but there is a need to think about one and to put such a solution in place.

Otherwise, we’ll continue to see the consequences of such an injustice.


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