Forest City Regional School District

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Forest City Regional School District
Map of Susquehanna County Pennsylvania School Districts.png
Address
100 Susquehanna Street
Forest City, Pennsylvania, Susquehanna County and Wayne County, 18421-1355
United States
Information
School board 9 locally elected members
Superintendent Mr. John Kopicki, contract to 6/30/2016 [1]
Administrator Ms Kathleen Kaczka - Business Manager
Staff 65 staff (non teachers)
Faculty 70 teachers (2011)[2]
Grades preK-12th
Age 4 years old preschool to 21 years old special education
Enrollment 876 pupil enrolled (2010) [3]
Kindergarten 83
Grade 1 69
Grade 2 48
Grade 3 74
Grade 4 55
Grade 5 58
Grade 6 61
Grade 7 74
Grade 8 76
Grade 9 66
Grade 10 65
Grade 11 76
Grade 12 71
Other Enrollment projected to decline to 800 in 2019
Budget $12.61 million (2013-14)[4]
Tuition for nonresident and charter school students ES - $9,912.96, HS - $9,541.59 [5]
Website
Map of Wayne County, Pennsylvania School Districts
Map of Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania School Districts

The Forest City Regional School District is located in the small borough of Forest City, Pennsylvania, USA in the northeastern corner of the state. It is a small, rural public school district made up of students from Susquehanna, Lackawanna and Wayne counties, including the boroughs of Forest City, Vandling and Union Dale and the townships of Mount Pleasant, Clinton and Herrick. The district covers an area of 87.82 square miles (227.5 km2). Forest City Regional had 884 students in 2004.[6] The district students are 96% white, 1% Asian, 1% black and 2% Hispanic.[7] According to School District officials, in school year 2007-08, the Forest City Regional School District provided basic educational services to 972 pupils through the employment of 75 teachers, 55 full-time and part-time support personnel, and 14 administrators. Forest City Regional School District received more than $11.4 million in state funding in school year 2007-08.

The district started with three buildings, two elementary schools (William Penn Elementary, Lincoln Elementary) and Forest City High School. An addition to the high school was done in 1967. In 1971, the three schools were combined into one. In 1995, the building was again expanded. A new gymnasium, an auditorium, a computer lab, a chemistry lab and more classrooms were added. Extensive remodeling was also done at this time to the existing structure. The high school serves as the starting point for the Steamtown Marathon.

In 2011, the district operates 2 schools: an elementary school and a high school.

Academic achievement[edit]

Forest City Regional School District was ranked 277th out of 498 Pennsylvania school districts in 2013 by the Pittsburgh Business Times. The ranking was based on the last three years of student academic performance on the PSSAs for: reading, writing, math and science.[8] The PSSAs are given to all children in grades 3rd through 8th and the 11th grade in high school. Adapted examinations are given to children in the special education programs.

  • 2012 - 232nd
  • 2011 - 337th [9]
  • 2010 - 392nd [10]
  • 2009 - 384th
  • 2008 - 374th
  • 2007 - 379th out of 501 Pennsylvania school districts.[11]

In 2012, the Pittsburgh Business Times also reported an Overachievers Ranking for 498 Pennsylvania school districts. Forest City Regional School District ranked 18th. The editor describes the ranking as: "a ranking answers the question - which school districts do better than expectations based upon economics? This rank takes the Honor Roll rank and adds the percentage of students in the district eligible for free and reduced-price lunch into the formula. A district finishing high on this rank is smashing expectations, and any district above the median point is exceeding expectations."[12]

  • 2011 - 88th
  • 2010 - 193rd
  • 2009 - 208th

In 2009, the academic achievement, of the students in the Forest City Regional School District, was in the 24th percentile among all 500 Pennsylvania school districts Scale (0-99; 100 is state best) [13]

District Adequate Yearly Progress history[edit]

In 2011 and 2012, Forest City Regional School District achieved Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).[14] In 2011, 94 percent of the 500 Pennsylvania public school districts achieved the No Child Left Behind Act progress level of 72% of students reading on grade level and 67% of students demonstrating on grade level math. In 2011, 46.9 percent of Pennsylvania school districts achieved Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) based on student performance. An additional 37.8 percent of Pennsylvania public school districts made AYP based on a calculated method called safe harbor, 8.2 percent on the growth model and 0.8 percent on a two-year average performance.[15] Forest City Regional School District achieved AYP from 2006 through 2010. In 2005, the District declined to Warning status. In both 2003 and 2004, Forest City Regional achieved AYP.

Graduation rate[edit]

In 2012, Forest City Regional School District's graduation rate declined to 90%.[16] In 2011, Forest City Regional School District's graduation rate was 93%.[17] In 2010, the Pennsylvania Department of Education issued a new, 4-year cohort graduation rate. Forest City Regional High School's rate was 84% for 2010.[18]

According to traditional graduation rate calculations:

  • 2010 - 96% [19]
  • 2009 - 91%
  • 2008 - 95% [20]
  • 2007 - 95% [21]

High school[edit]

Forest City Regional High School is located at 100 Susquehanna Street, Forest City. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the school reported an enrollment of 437 pupils in grades 7th through 12th, with 184 pupils eligible for a federal free or reduced-price lunch due to family poverty. The school employed 33 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 13:1.[22] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 12 teachers were rated "Non‐Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind.[23]

In 2012, Forest City Regional High School declined to Warning AYP status, due to lagging student achievement in reading and mathematics. In 2011, the High School achieved AYP.[24] Forest City Regional High School was in School Improvement level II due to chronic low student achievement in 2009 and 2010.[25]

PSSA Results
11th Grade Reading
  • 2012 - 55% on grade level (39% below basic). State - 67% of 11th graders are on grade level.
  • 2011 - 72% (16% below basic). State - 69.1%[26]
  • 2010 - 64% (18% below basic). State - 66% [27]
  • 2009 - 71% (12% below basic), State - 65% [28]
  • 2008 - 68% (16% below basic), State - 65%[29]
  • 2007 - 66% (15% below basic), State - 65% [30]
11th Grade Math
  • 2012 - 45% on grade level (37% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 59% of 11th graders are on grade level.[31]
  • 2011 - 64% (23% below basic). State - 60.3% [32]
  • 2010 - 47% (29% below basic). State - 59%[33]
  • 2009 - 42% (31% below basic). State - 56%[34]
  • 2008 - 35% (40% below basic). State - 56% [35]
  • 2007 - 38% (36% below basic). State - 53%[36]
11th Grade Science
  • 2012 - 29% on grade level (22% below basic). State - 42% of 11th graders were on grade level.[37]
  • 2011 - 45% (15% below basic). State - 40%[38]
  • 2010 - 25% (18% below basic), State - 39%
  • 2009 - 33% (20% below basic). State - 40%
  • 2008 - 31% (11% below basic). State - 39%[39]

Science in Motion Forest City Regional High School did not take advantage of a state program called Science in Motion which brought college professors and sophisticated science equipment to the school to raise science awareness and to provide inquiry-based experiences for the students. The Science in Motion program was funded by a state appropriation and cost the school nothing to participate.[40] Wilkes University provides the experiences to schools in the North eastern Pennsylvania region.

College remediation[edit]

According to a Pennsylvania Department of Education study released in January 2009, 21% of Forest City Regional High School graduates required remediation in mathematics and or reading before they were prepared to take college level courses in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education or community colleges.[41] Less than 66% of Pennsylvania high school graduates, who enroll in a four-year college in Pennsylvania, will earn a bachelor's degree within six years. Among Pennsylvania high school graduates pursuing an associate degree, only one in three graduate in three years.[42] Per the Pennsylvania Department of Education, one in three recent high school graduates who attend Pennsylvania's public universities and community colleges takes at least one remedial course in math, reading or English.

Dual enrollment[edit]

The high school offers the Pennsylvania dual enrollment program. This state program permits high school students to take courses, at local higher education institutions, to earn college credits. The students continue to have full access to activities and programs at their high school. The college credits are offered at a deeply discounted rate. The state offers a small grant to assist students in costs for tuition, fees and books.[43] Under the Pennsylvania Transfer and Articulation Agreement, many Pennsylvania colleges and universities accept these credits for students who transfer to their institutions.[44] The Pennsylvania College Credit Transfer System reported in 2009, that students saved nearly $35.4 million by having their transferred credits count towards a degree under the new system.[45] In 2010, the district received a $9,540 state grant to be used to assist students with tuition, fees and books.

SAT scores[edit]

In 2012, 46 Forest City Regional School District students took the SAT exams. The District's Verbal Average Score was 468. The Math average score was 467. The Writing average score was 456. The statewide Verbal SAT exams results were: Verbal 491, Math 501, Writing 480. In the USA, 1.65 million students took the exams achieving scores: Verbal 496, Math 514, Writing 488. According to the College Board the maximum score on each section was 800, and 360 students nationwide scored a perfect 2,400.

In 2011, 46 students at Forest City Regional School District took the SAT exams. The district's Verbal Average Score was 467. The Math average score was 480. The Writing average score was 450.[46] Pennsylvania ranked 40th among states with SAT scores: Verbal - 493, Math - 501, Writing - 479.[47] In the United States 1.65 million students took the exam in 2011. They averaged 497 (out of 800) verbal, 514 math and 489 in writing.[48]

Eighth grade achievement[edit]

8th Grade Reading
  • 2012 - 75% on grade level (16% below basic). State - 79% [31]
  • 2011 - 85%, 68% advanced (8% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 81.8% of 8th graders on grade level.
  • 2010 - 90%, 56% advanced (6% below basic) State - 81%
  • 2009 - 76%, 50% advanced (15% below basic), State - 80%
  • 2008 - 85%, 62% advanced (11% below basic), State - 78%
  • 2007 - 66%, 36% advanced (13% below basic), State - 75%[49]
8th Grade Math
  • 2012 - 75% on grade level (16% below basic). State - 76%
  • 2011 - 79%, 55% advanced (11% below basic). State - 76.9%
  • 2010 - 80%, 49% advanced (9% below basic) State - 75%
  • 2009 - 61%, 32% advanced (18% below basic), State - 71%
  • 2008 - 78%, 41% advanced (15% below basic), State - 70% [50]
  • 2007 - 62%, 33% advanced (11% below basic), State - 67%
8th Grade Science
  • 2012 - 57% (20% below basic). State - 59%
  • 2011 - 65% (21% below basic). State – 58.3%
  • 2010 - 64% (18% below basic). State - 57%.
  • 2009 - 56%, State - 54% [51]
  • 2008 - 59%, State - 52% [52]

Elementary School[edit]

Forest City Regional Elementary School is located at 100 Susquehanna Street, Forest City. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the school reported an enrollment of 459 pupils in grades preschool through 6th, with 232 pupils eligible for a federal free or reduced-price lunch due to family poverty. The school employed 37 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 12:1.[53] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of the teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind.[54]

Forest City Elementary School offers a taxpayer funded Preschool program for all children within the District who are four years old as of the first day of school. In 2011-12, there were three classroom teachers with full day sessions (8:30-3:00). There are also six teacher assistants to assist the classroom teachers. Children are transported to school from their home or local daycare center on a separate bus. All students receive breakfast, a hot lunch and snack everyday.

in 2009 and 2010 the attendance rate was reported as 94%.[55]

In 2009 through 2012, Forest City Regional Elementary School achieved Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) status.[56] In 2011, the School is recognized as a Blue Ribbon School by the US Department of Education in 2011. The school was nominated by the Superintendent and approved by Pennsylvania Department of Education officials, for this federal recognition program.[57]

PSSA result
4th Grade Science
  • 2012 - 89%, 70% advanced (2% below basic). State - 82%
  • 2011 - 94%, 63% advanced (1% below basic). State – 82.9%
  • 2010 - 92%, 68% advanced (0% below basic). State - 81%
  • 2009 - 95%, 56% advanced, State - 83%
  • 2008 - 79%, 37% advanced, State - 81%

Special education[edit]

In December 2010, the district administration reported that 166 pupils or 18% of the district's pupils received Special Education services. Among the identified students 54% had a specific learning disability. In December 2009, the district administration reported that 170 pupils or 18% of the district's pupils received Special Education services.[61]

The District engages in identification procedures to ensure that eligible students receive an appropriate educational program consisting of special education and related services, individualized to meet student needs. At no cost to the parents, these services are provided in compliance with state and federal law; and are reasonably calculated to yield meaningful educational benefit and student progress. To identify students who may be eligible for special education, various screening activities are conducted on an ongoing basis. These screening activities include: review of group-based data (cumulative records, enrollment records, health records, report cards, ability and achievement test scores); hearing, vision, motor, and speech/language screening; and review by the Instructional Support Team or Student Assistance Team. When screening results suggest that the student may be eligible, the District seeks parental consent to conduct a multidisciplinary evaluation. Parents who suspect their child is eligible may verbally request a multidisciplinary evaluation from a professional employee of the District or contact the Special Education Department.[62]

In 2010, the state of Pennsylvania provided $1,026,815,000 for Special Education services. The Pennsylvania Special Education funding system assumes that 16% of the district’s students receive special education services. It also assumes that each student’s needs accrue the same level of costs.[63] The state requires each district to have a three year special education plan to meet the unique needs of its special education students.[64] Overidentification of students, in order to increase state funding, has been an issue in the Commonwealth. Some districts have more than 20% of its students receiving special education services while others have 10% supported through special education.[65]

Forest City Regional School District received a $465,420 supplement for special education services in 2010.[66] For the 2011-12 school year, all Pennsylvania public school districts received the same level of funding for special education that they received in 2010-11. This level funding is provided regardless of changes in the number of pupils who need special education services and regardless of the level of services the respective students required.[67]

Gifted education[edit]

The District Administration reported that 1 student or 1.12% of its students were gifted in 2009.[68] By law, the district must provide mentally gifted programs at all grade levels. The primary emphasis is on enrichment and acceleration of the regular education curriculum through a push in model with the gifted instructor in the classroom with the regular instructor. This approach permits such specialized instructional strategies as tiered assignments, curriculum compacting, flexible grouping, learning stations, independent projects and independent contracts. Students identified as gifted attending the High School have access to honors and advanced placement courses, and dual enrollment with local colleges. The referral process for a gifted evaluation can be initiated by teachers or parents by contacting the student’s building principal and requesting an evaluation. All requests must be made in writing. To be eligible for mentally gifted programs in Pennsylvania, a student must have a cognitive ability of at least 130 as measured on a standardized ability test by a certified school psychologist. Other factors that indicate giftedness will also be considered for eligibility.[69]

Budget[edit]

In 2009, the district reports employing over 80 teachers with a starting salary of $40,240 for 185 days for pupil instruction. The average teacher salary was $53,085 while the maximum salary is $108,899.[70] By contract the teachers work a 7 hour 10 minute day.As of 2007, Pennsylvania ranked in the top 10 states in average teacher salaries. When adjusted for cost of living Pennsylvania ranked fourth in the nation for teacher compensation.[71] Additionally, Forest City Regional School District teachers receive a defined benefit pension, health insurance, professional development reimbursement, paid personal days, 10 sick days and other benefits. Teachers are paid $21.50 per hour if they are required to work outside of the regular school day.[72] According to State Rep. Glen Grell, a trustee of the Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System Board, a 40-year educator can retire with a pension equal to 100 percent of their final salary. Additionally teachers receive payment for unused sick days upon retirement after 25 years. The district pays the health insurance premium for early retirees until age 65 years.[73]

In 2007, the district employed 70 teachers. The average teacher salary in the district was $49,068 for 180 school days worked.[74]

Forest City Regional School District administrative costs per pupil in 2008 was $706.27 per pupil. The district is ranked 309th out of 500 in Pennsylvania for administrative spending. The lowest administrative cost per pupil in Pennsylvania was $398 per pupil.[75] The district reported that the superintendent's salary was $112,819, in 2009.

In 2008, Forest City Regional School District reported spending $12,700 per pupil. This ranked 200th in the commonwealth.[76] In 2010 the per pupil spending had increased to $13,929.60 [77] Among the states, Pennsylvania’s total per pupil revenue (including all sources) ranked 11th at $15,023 per student, in 2008-09.[78] In 2007, the Pennsylvania per pupil total expenditures was $12,759.[79]

Reserves

In 2009, the district reported $2,655,601 in an unreserved-undesignated fund balance. The designated fund balance was reported as zero.[80] In 2010, Forest City Regional Administration reported an increase to $$3,040,512.00 in the unreserved-designated fund balance, while the an unreserved-undesignated fund balance was zero. Pennsylvania school district reserve funds are divided into two categories – designated and undesignated. The undesignated funds are not committed to any planned project. Designated funds and any other funds, such as capital reserves, are allocated to specific projects. School districts are required by state law to keep 5 percent of their annual spending in the undesignated reserve funds to preserve bond ratings. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, from 2003 to 2010, as a whole, Pennsylvania school districts amassed nearly $3 billion in reserved funds.[81]

In July 2010, the Pennsylvania Auditor General conducted a performance audit of the district. Findings were reported to the administration and school board.[82]

The district is funded by a combination of: a local income tax, a property tax, a real estate transfer tax 0.5%, coupled with substantial funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the federal government. Grants can provide an opportunity to supplement school funding without raising local taxes.[83] In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, pension and Social Security income are exempted from state personal income tax and local earned income tax regardless of the individual's wealth.[84]

State basic education funding[edit]

For the 2013-14 school year, Forest City Regional School District will receive $3,275,421 in Pennsylvania Basic Education Funding, which is $41,401 more than its 2012-13 state BEF to the District. Additionally, the District will receive $57,371 in Accountability Block Grant funding to focus on academic achievement and level funding for special education services. The District has the option of applying for several other state and federal grants to increase revenues. The Commonwealth’s budget increased Basic Education Funding statewide by $123 million to over $5.5 billion. The state funded the PSERS (state school employee pension fund) with $1,017,000,000 and Social Security payments for school employees of $495 million.[85]

For the 2012-13 school year, the Forest City Regional School District received $3,234,000 in state Basic Education Funding. The District also received state funding for transportation, teachers' pension costs and special education costs.[86] The Governor's Executive Budget for 2012-2013 included $9.34 billion for kindergarten through 12th grade public education, including $5.4 billion in basic education funding, which was an increase of $49 million over the 2011-12 budget. In addition, the Commonwealth provided $100 million for the Accountability Block Grant (ABG) program. Forest City Regional School District received $57,371 in ABG funds. The state also provided an $544.4 million payment for School Employees’ Social Security and $856 million for School Employees’ Retirement fund called PSERS.[87] This amount was a $21,823,000 increase (0.34%) over the 2011-2012 appropriations for Basic Education Funding, School Employees' Social Security, Pupil Transportation, Nonpublic and Charter School Pupil Transportation. Since taking office, Corbett’s first two budgets have restored more than $918 million in support of public schools, compensating for the $1 billion in federal stimulus dollars lost at the end of the 2010-11 school year.

In 2011-12, Forest City Regional School District received a $3,234,020 allocation, of state Basic Education Funding.[88][89] Additionally, the School District received $57,371 in Accountability Block Grant funding. The enacted Pennsylvania state Education budget included $5,354,629,000 for the 2011-2012 Basic Education Funding appropriation. This amount is a $233,290,000 increase (4.6%) over the enacted State appropriation for 2010-2011.[90] The highest increase in state basic education funding was awarded to Duquesne City School District, which got a 49% increase in state funding for 2011-12.[91] In 2010, the district reported that 882 students received free or reduced-price lunches, due to the family meeting the federal poverty level.[92]

For 2010-11 the Forest City Regional School District received a 2% increase in state Basic Education Funding resulting in a $3,429,209 payment.[93] Elk Lake School District received a 2.82% increase, which was the highest increase in BEF in Susquehanna County. Kennett Consolidated School District in Chester County received the highest increase in the state at 23.65% increase in funding for the 2010-11 school year. One hundred fifty school districts received the base 2% increase in 2010-11. The state's hold harmless policy regarding state basic education funding continued where a district received at least the same amount as the year before, even where enrollment had significantly declined. The amount of increase each school district received was set by Governor Edward Rendell and then Secretary of Education Gerald Zahorchak, as a part of the state budget proposal given each February. This was the second year of Governor Rendell’s policy to fund some districts at a far greater rate than others.

In the 2009-10 school budget year the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provided a 3.69% increase in Basic Education funding for a total of $3,361,970 to the Forest City Regional School District. The state Basic Education funding to the district in 2008-09 was $3,234,020.00. The district also received supplemental funding for English language learners, Title 1 federal funding for low-income students, for district size, a poverty supplement from the commonwealth and more.[94] Montrose Area School District received a 4.88% increase, the highest increase in Susquehanna County for the 2009-10 school year. Among the 500 school districts in Pennsylvania, Muhlenberg School District in Berks County received the highest with a 22.31% increase in funding.[95] The amount of increase each school district received was set by Governor Edward Rendell and then Secretary of Education Gerald Zahorchak, as a part of the state budget proposal given each February. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 427 district students received free or reduced-price lunches due to low family income in the 2007-2008 school year.[96]

Accountability Block Grants[edit]

Beginning in 2004-2005, the state launched the Accountability Block Grant school funding. This program has provided $1.5 billion to Pennsylvania’s school districts. The Accountability Block Grant program requires that its taxpayer dollars are focused on specific interventions that are most likely to increase student academic achievement. These interventions include: teacher training, all-day kindergarten, lower class size K-3rd grade, literacy and math coaching programs that provide teachers with individualized job-embedded professional development to improve their instruction, before or after school tutoring assistance to struggling students. For 2010-11 the Forest City Regional School District applied for and received $155,720 in addition to all other state and federal funding. The district used the funding to provide full-day kindergarten for the 7th year and to increase instructional time. It also used the money for before and after school tutoring for students and for teacher training.[97][98]

Education Assistance grant[edit]

The state's Education Assistance Program funding provides for the continuing support of tutoring services and other programs to address the academic needs of eligible students. Funds were available to eligible school districts and full-time career and technology centers (CTC) in which one or more schools have failed to meet at least one academic performance target, as provided for in Section 1512-C of the Pennsylvania Public School Code. In 2010-11 the Forest City Regional School District received $35,172.[99]

Environmental Education Grant[edit]

The Environmental Education Grant Program was established by the Environmental Education Act of 1993, which mandates that 5 percent of all pollution fines and penalties collected annually by the Department of Environmental Protection be set aside for environmental education. In 2010, Forest City Regional School District was awarded $5,235.[100]

PreK Counts grant[edit]

Forest City Regional School District received state funding to provide taxpayer funded preschool at the elementary school. For the 2011 school year, Pre-K Counts was funded at the 2010 levels of $83.6 million statewide in Gov. Tom Corbett`s proposed budget,. The state also supplements the federal Head Start preschool program with an additional $37.6 million. Pre-K Counts funding was initiated during the Rendell administration. In 2007-08 the state funded Pre-K Counts at $75 million. Forest City Regional School District received funding in 2007-08.[101] In 2009-10 the district received $300,200 to provide preschool to 50 children.[102][103]

Science It’s Elementary grant[edit]

Forest City Regional Elementary School successfully applied to participate and received a Science It’s Elementary grant in 2008-09. For the 2008-09 school year, the program was offered in 143 schools reaching 2,847 teachers and 66,973 students across Pennsylvania.[104] In 2007, the Pennsylvania Department of Education initiated an effort to improve science instruction in the Commonwealth’s public elementary schools. Called Science: It’s Elementary, the program is a hands on instruction approach for elementary science classes that develops problem-solving and critical thinking skills.[105] To encourage schools to adopt the program’s standards aligned curriculum, the state provided a grant to cover the costs of materials and extensive mandatory teacher training.[106] The district was required to develop a three-year implementation plan for the participating school. The District also was required to appoint a district liaison who was paid $3000 by PDE to serve as the conduit of all information between the district and the Department and its agents along with submitting orders and distributing supplies to implementing teachers. For the 2006-07 state education budget, $10 million was allocated. The 2006-07 State Education Budget provided $635 million in new spending for pre-K through 12th grades for the 2006-07 school year. This marks an 8-percent increase over 2005-06 public school funding.[107] The grant program was expanded to $14.5 million in the 2008-09 budget.

Classrooms for the Future grant[edit]

The Classroom for the Future state program provided districts with hundreds of thousands of extra state funding to buy laptop computers for each core curriculum high school class (English, Science, History, Math) and paid for teacher training to optimize the computers use. The program was funded from 2006-2009. Forest City Regional School District did not apply for funding in 2006-07. In 2007-08 the district received $105,541. For the 2008-09, school year the district received $45,413 for a total of $150,954. Of the 501 public school districts in Pennsylvania, 447 of them received Classrooms for the Future grant awards.[108]

Federal Stimulus grant[edit]

The district received an extra $492,226 in ARRA - Federal Stimulus money to be used in specific programs like Title 1, special education and meeting the academic needs of low-income students.[109] The funding was limited to the 2009-10 and 2010-2011 school years.[110] Due to the temporary nature of the funding, schools were repeatedly advised to use the funds for one-time expenditures like acquiring equipment, making repairs to buildings, training teachers to provide more effective instruction or purchasing books and software.

Race to the Top grant[edit]

School district officials did not apply for the Race to the Top federal grant which would have brought the district hundreds of thousands of additional federal dollars for improving student academic achievement.[111][112] Participation required the administration, the school board and the local teachers' union to sign an agreement to prioritize improving student academic success.[113] In Pennsylvania, 120 public school districts and 56 charter schools agreed to participate.[114] Pennsylvania was not approved for the grant. The failure of districts to agree to participate was cited as one reason that Pennsylvania was not approved.[115]

Common Cents state initiative[edit]

The Forest City Regional School Board chose to not participate in the Pennsylvania Department of Education Common Cents program. The program called for the state to audit the district, at no cost to local taxpayers, to identify ways the district could save tax dollars.[116] After the review of the information, the district was not required to implement any of the recommended cost savings changes.

Real estate taxes[edit]

The Forest City Regional School Board set property tax rates in 2013-14 at 37.68 mills for properties in Susquehanna County. Property owners in Wayne County pay 15.61 mills. Property owners in Lackawanna County pay 86.83 mills.[117] A mill is $1 of tax for every $1,000 of a property's assessed value. Irregular property reassessments have become a serious issue in the commonwealth as it creates a significant disparity in taxation within a community and across a region. Property taxes, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, apply only to real estate - land and buildings. The property tax is not levied on cars, business inventory, or other personal property. Certain types of property are exempt from property taxes, including: places of worship, places of burial, private social clubs, charitable and educational institutions and all government property (local, state and federal). Additionally, service related, disabled US military veterans may seek an exemption from paying property taxes. Pennsylvania public school district revenues are dominated by two main sources: 1) Property tax collections, which account for the vast majority (between 75-85%) of local revenues; and 2) Act 511 tax collections (Local Tax Enabling Act), which are around 15% of revenues for school districts.[118] When a Pennsylvania public school district includes municipalities in two or more counties, each of which has different rates of property tax assessment, a state board equalizes the tax rates between the counties.[119] In 2010, miscalculations by the State Tax Equalization Board (STEB) were widespread in the Commonwealth and adversely impacted funding for many school districts, including those that did not cross county borders.[120]

  • 2011-12 - 35.7300 mills for Susquehanna County. Lackawanna County - 81.8500 mills. Wayne County - 15.2800 mills.[121]
  • 2010-11 - 35.9300 mills for Susquehanna County. Lackawanna County - 85.7300 mills. Wayne County - 14.6500 mills.[121]
  • 2009-10 - 36.3400 mills for Susquehanna County, 82.0400 mills for Lackawanna County and 14.0700 mills for Wayne County[122]
  • 2008-09 - 34.3700 mills in Susquehanna County, 80.7100 mills for Lackawanna County and Wayne County - 13.9000 mills.[123]
  • 2007-08 - 34.5800 mills in Susquehanna County, 84.6000 mills for Lackawanna County and Wayne County - 12.5800 mills.
  • 2006-07 - 32.7000 mills in Susquehanna County, 81.5000 mills for Lackawanna County and Wayne County - 12.2000 mills.

The average yearly property tax paid by Susquehanna County residents amounts to about 3.66% of their yearly income. Susquehanna County ranked 331st out of the 3143 United States counties for property taxes as a percentage of median income. In Lackawanna County property taxes amount to 3.4% of residents' income; ranking 413th of 3143 US counties.[124] According to a report prepared by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the total real estate taxes collected by all school districts in Pennsylvania rose from $6,474,133,936 in 1999-00 to $10,438,463,356 in 2008-09 and to $11,153,412,490 in 2011.[125] Property taxes in Pennsylvania are relatively high on a national scale. According to the Tax Foundation, Pennsylvania ranked 11th in the U.S. in 2008 in terms of property taxes paid as a percentage of home value (1.34%) and 12th in the country in terms of property taxes as a percentage of income (3.55%).[126]

Act 1 Adjusted index[edit]

The Act 1 of 2006 Index regulates the rates at which each school district can raise property taxes in Pennsylvania. Districts are not authorized to raise taxes above that index unless they allow voters to vote by referendum, or they seek an exception from the state Department of Education. The base index for the 2011-2012 school year is 1.4 percent, but the Act 1 Index can be adjusted higher, depending on a number of factors, such as property values and the personal income of district residents. Act 1 included 10 exceptions, including: increasing pension costs, increases in special education costs, a catastrophe like a fire or flood, increase in health insurance costs for contracts in effect in 2006 or dwindling tax bases. The base index is the average of the percentage increase in the statewide average weekly wage, as determined by the PA Department of Labor and Industry, for the preceding calendar year and the percentage increase in the Employment Cost Index for Elementary and Secondary Schools, as determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the U.S. Department of Labor, for the previous 12-month period ending June 30. For a school district with a market value/personal income aid ratio (MV/PI AR) greater than 0.4000, its index equals the base index multiplied by the sum of .75 and its MV/PI AR for the current year.[127] In June 2011, the Pennsylvania General Assembly eliminated six of the ten exceptions to the Act 1 Index.[128] The following exceptions were maintained: 1) costs to pay interest and principal on indebtedness incurred prior to September 4, 2004 for Act 72 schools and prior to June 27, 2006 for non-Act 72 schools; 2) costs to pay interest and principal on electoral debt; 3) costs incurred in providing special education programs and services (beyond what is already paid by the State); and 4) costs due to increases of more than the Index in the school’s share of payments to PSERS (PA school employees pension fund) taking into account the state mandated PSERS contribution rate.[129][130]

The School District Adjusted Index for the Forest City Regional School District 2006-2007 through 2010-2011.[131]

  • 2006-07 - 5.2%, Base 3.9%
  • 2007-08 - 4.6%, Base 3.4%
  • 2008-09 - 6.0%, Base 4.4%
  • 2009-10 - 5.5%, Base 4.1%
  • 2010-11 - 3.8%, Base 2.9%
  • 2011-12 - 1.8%, Base 1.4%
  • 2012-13 - 2.2%, Base 1.7% [132]

For the 2012-13 budget year, Forest City Regional School Board did not apply for exceptions to exceed the Act 1 Index. For 2012-2013, 274 school districts adopted a resolution certifying that tax rates would not be increased above their index; 223 school districts adopted a preliminary budget leaving open the option of exceeded the Index limit. For the exception for pension costs, 194 school districts received approval to exceed the Index. For special education costs, 129 districts received approval to exceed the tax limit. For the exception for pension costs, 194 school districts received approval to exceed the Index. For special education costs, 129 districts received approval to exceed the tax limit.[133]

For the 2011-12 school year, the Forest City Regional School Board did not apply for an exception to exceed the Act 1 Index. Each year, the Forest City Regional School Board has the option of adopting either 1) a resolution in January certifying they will not increase taxes above their index or 2) a preliminary budget in February. A school district adopting the resolution may not apply for referendum exceptions or ask voters for a tax increase above the inflation index. A specific timeline for these decisions is published annually, by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.[134]

According to a state report, for the 2011-2012 school year budgets, 247 school districts adopted a resolution certifying that tax rates would not be increased above their index; 250 school districts adopted a preliminary budget. Of the 250 school districts that adopted a preliminary budget, 231 adopted real estate tax rates that exceeded their index. Tax rate increases in the other 19 school districts that adopted a preliminary budget did not exceed the school district’s index. Of the districts who sought exceptions: 221 used the pension costs exemption and 171 sought a Special Education costs exemption. Only 1 school district sought an exemption for Nonacademic School Construction Project, while 1 sought an exception for Electoral debt for school construction.[135]

Forest City Regional School Board did not apply for exceptions to exceed the Act 1 index for the budgets in 2009-10 or in 2010-11.[136][137] In the Spring of 2010, 135 Pennsylvania school boards asked to exceed their adjusted index. Approval was granted to 133 of them and 128 sought an exception for pension costs increases.[138]

Property tax relief[edit]

In 2009, the Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Relief from gambling for the Forest City Regional School District was $245 per approved permanent primary residence. In the district, 1,324 property owners applied for the tax relief.[139] The tax relief was subtracted from the total annual school property on the individual's tax bill. Property owners apply for the relief through the county Treasurer's office. Farmers can qualify for a farmstead exemption on building used for agricultural purposes. The farm must be at least 10 contiguous acres (40,000 m2) and must be the primary residence of the owner. Farmers can qualify for both the homestead exemption and the farmstead exemption. The Pennsylvania Auditor General found that 48% of property owners applied for tax relief in Susquehanna County.[140] In Susquehanna County, the highest property tax relief in 2009 was awarded to the approved property owners in Blue Ridge School District. Pennsylvania awarded the highest property tax relief to residents of the Chester-Upland School District in Delaware County at $632 per homestead and farmstead in 2010.[141] This was the second year Chester Upland School District was the top recipient.

Additionally, the Pennsylvania Property Tax/Rent Rebate program is provided for low income Pennsylvanians aged 65 and older; widows and widowers aged 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older. The income limit is $35,000 for homeowners. The maximum rebate for both homeowners and renters is $650. Applicants can exclude one-half (1/2) of their Social Security income, consequently individuals who have income substantially more than $35,000, may still qualify for a rebate. Individuals must apply annually for the rebate. This can be taken in addition to Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Relief.[142]

Property taxes in Pennsylvania are relatively high on a national scale. According to the Tax Foundation, Pennsylvania ranked 11th in the U.S. in 2008 in terms of property taxes paid as a percentage of home value (1.34%) and 12th in the country in terms of property taxes as a percentage of income (3.55%).[143]

Enrollment[edit]

Forest City Regional School District is experiencing low enrollment in K-12. The Pennsylvania Department of Education projects the district's enrollment will decline to 800 pupils through 2018.[144] Shifting population trends across the U.S. and Pennsylvania are affecting school enrollment and may impact the building needs of school districts in the years to come.[145] Over the next 10 years, rural Pennsylvania school enrollment is projected to decrease 8 percent. The most significant enrollment decline is projected to be in western Pennsylvania, where rural school districts may have a 16 percent decline. More than 40 percent of elementary schools and more than 60 percent of secondary schools in western Pennsylvania are projected to experience significant enrollment decreases (15 percent or greater).[146]

A study done by Standard and Poors in 2007 (at the request of the PA General Assembly) examined whether the consolidation of small school district's administrations would yield saving where the resulting district had 3000 pupils or less.[147] Superintendent were asked about savings, if their district were to merge with another district at the administrative level only, but not close any of their schools. It found 42% of survey respondents thought consolidation could achieve cost reductions. Additionally, 63% of responding superintendents believed that consolidation with another district would help provide additional academic enrichment opportunities for the students.[148] In March 2011, the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants Fiscal Responsibility Task Force released a report which found that consolidating school district administrations with one neighboring district would save the Commonwealth $1.2 billion without forcing the consolidation of any schools.[149]

Extracurriculars[edit]

The Forest City Regional School District offers a variety of clubs, activities and sports. Eligibility to participate is set by school board policies.

By Pennsylvania law, all K-12 students in the district, including those who attend a private nonpublic school, cyber charter school, charter school and those home schooled, are eligible to participate in the extracurricular programs, including all athletics. They must meet the same eligibility rules as the students enrolled in the district's schools.[150]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]