Middle Class Flight from Prince George’s County Schools


I just finished reading a wonderful article in today’s Washington Post about wealthier Prince George’s County residents removing their children from the Prince George’s County Public School System.  There is no hiding it, reports have shown that the school system is one of the worse in the state of Maryland.  Lagging only, the City of Baltimore in test scores.

What the article asserts to be one of the major reasons for lackluster results in the school system is the lack of middle class families in the classrooms. As a result of the constant horror stories, fed through media sources and flowing through the street, parents are fearful of sending their children to their neighborhood public school.

This is very similar to how the economic markets work. The perceptions of investors shift the markets. If an investor thinks that a good will increase in value in the future, based on society factors, (s)he will buy a bunch of the good, by default increasing the value of the good. The same is true for the opposite.

We have parents perceiving that the school system is bad or declining in value.  Subsequently, they pull their children out of the schools. (In worse case scenario, never enrolling children). As a result, the school system declines. But  primarily in reaction to the parent’s initial response. The parents who have the resources to be involved and shift the system have left.

But the reality is that the school system is not bad. In April, three Prince George’s County Public Schools (Elem, Mid, HS) won 7 1st place awards at a National STEM competition. 6 HS students were selected as Gates Millennium Scholars. Fairmount Heights HS offers a professional IT certifications program. There are programs like this throughout the county.

The real issue: PGCPS Marketing.  Why don’t more people know about the good of the system? The article even stated that a marketing campaign flopped. They don’t have good marketing research on the demographics and psychographics of the parents who are not sending their children to public schools. That’s basic market research that any organization needs to be sustainable!

I attended PGCPS from K – 12. Graduated in 2005. Received my Master’s in 2011. I have classmates who studied at Oxford, Harvard, Yale, Cornell. Friends who already have their PhDs. But I digress.

Public schools offer an invaluable resource that is very rare to find at a private school, no matter how high the tuition.  Diversity. Diversity isn’t limited to class, but is leveraged when people from a variety of economic classes, education levels, interests, and backgrounds combine.  When Thurgood Marshall argued in support of the integration of school system, he argued that while schools can be separate and receive the same amount of resources, the true benefit students receive is the interaction with others who are unlike them.  

The real concern is how do we get these families re-engaged in the community. If you are not vested in the school system and you deem it too costly to get active (easier to pay $4,000 for tuition than work to improve overall conditions at public schools) then how active are you in other sectors of the county’s operation.

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