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Philadelphia and Pittsburgh: Five charts and two families at the center of the school choice debate

The McGrenehan family at their home in Northeast Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Mike McGrenehan thought he was headed for a life in the suburbs.

Growing up in Northeast Philadelphia, not far from the city limits, McGrenehan always figured he’d marry, have kids, and ship off to the open spaces of suburbia. The “McMansion push,” he called it.

He moved to Montgomery County when he and his wife first married, but it never quite felt like home.

“When we left, we were out on an island,” he said.

After a few years, they moved back to Northeast Philly and had three kids, but reached another turning point when their oldest turned 5.

Where would their kids go to school?

McGrenehan posted a map in his home office that was thumb-tacked with potential options. Catholic school would be pricey. His local public schools, by McGrenehan’s estimation, didn’t have the test scores or resources to compete. The suburban school districts seemed awesome, but that “island” feeling loomed.

Mathematics, Science and Technology Community Charter School, which is on the edge of town and has a sterling academic reputation, became his ideal.

“That’s what the hope and dream became,” he said. “If we got MaST, we wouldn’t have to consider leaving.”

Read the rest of this story at WHYY News

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