Laurel School District (Pennsylvania)
|Laurel School District|
|2497 Harlansburg Road
New Castle, Pennsylvania, Lawrence County, 16101-9705
|School board||9 locally elected members|
|Superintendent||Dr Sandra L Hennon (contract 08-June 2013)
Salary $118,799 in 2012
|Director||Mr. Bob Ord, Director of Administrative Services
Mr. Edward Novad, Director of Buildings and Grounds
|Principal||Mr. Kevin Mahoney HS|
|Principal||Mr Dan Svirbly, grant manager|
|Mr. David Spalding, Special Education Administrator|
|Age||5 years old to 21 years old for special education students|
|Pupils||1,354 pupils (2010-11) |
|Other||Enrollment projected to be 1,346 in 2020|
|Budget||$16,540,146 (2012-13) |
|Per pupil spending||$10,295 (2008)|
Laurel School District is a diminutive, rural, public school district located in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania. The District encompasses approximately 66 square miles. Scott Township, Slippery Rock Township, and Hickory Township are within district boundaries. According to 2010 federal census data, it serves a resident population of 8,107. In 2009, the district residents’ per capita income was $17,192, while the median family income was $46,306. In the Commonwealth, the median family income was $49,501  and the United States median family income was $49,445, in 2010. Laurel School District provided basic educational services to 1,332 pupils in 2009-10. It employed 100 teachers, 63 full-time and part-time support personnel, and 7 administrators. Laurel School District received more than $9.7 million in state funding in school year 2009-10.
Laurel School District operates one small elementary school and a combined junior–senior high school.
- 1 Governance
- 2 Academic achievement
- 3 Special education
- 4 Enrollment
- 5 Wellness policy
- 6 School safety and bullying
- 7 Budget
- 7.1 State basic education funding
- 7.2 Federal Stimulus grant
- 7.3 Real estate taxes
- 8 Extracurriculars
- 9 References
Laurel School District is governed by 9 individually elected board members (serves without compensation for a term of four years.), the Pennsylvania State Board of Education, the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Pennsylvania General Assembly. The federal government controls programs it funds like Title I funding for low-income children in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the No Child Left Behind Act, which mandates the district focus resources on student success in acquiring reading and math skills. The Superintendent and Business Manager are appointed by the school board. The Superintendent is the chief administrative officer with overall responsibility for all aspects of operations, including education and finance. The Business Manager is responsible for budget and financial operations. Neither of these officials are voting members of the School Board.
The Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives Sunshine Review gave the school board and district administration a "F" for transparency based on a review of "What information can people find on their school district's website". It examined the school district's website for information regarding; taxes, the current budget, meetings, school board members names and terms, contracts, audits, public records information and more.
Laurel School District was ranked 302nd out of 498 Pennsylvania school districts by the Pittsburgh Business Times in 2012. The ranking was based on student academic achievement as demonstrated on the last three years of the PSSAs for: reading, writing math and science. 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.
- 2011 - 303rd
- 2010 - 318th 
- 2009 - 296th
- 2008 - 296th
- 2007 - 278th out of 501 school districts.
- District AYP status history
In 2012, Laurel School District achieved AYP status. In 2011, Laurel School District achieved Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). 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. Laurel School District has achieved AYP status each year from 2003.
In 2012, Laurel School District’s graduation rate was 98%. In 2011, the graduation rate was 89%. In 2010, the Pennsylvania Department of Education issued a new, 4-year cohort graduation rate. Laurel Senior High School's rate was 89% for 2010.
- According to traditional graduation rate calculations
Junior Senior High School
Laurel Junior Senior High School is located at 2497 Harlansburg Rd, New Castle. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the school reported an enrollment of 659 pupils in grades 7th through 12th, with 180 pupils eligible for a federal free or reduced-price lunch. The school is a federally designated Title I school. The school employed 34 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 19:1. According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of its teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind.
In 2012, Laurel Junior Senior High School declined to Warning AYP status due to lagging achievement in math and reading. In 2010 and 2011, Laurel Junior Senior High School achieved AYP status.
- PSSA results
11th Grade Reading:
- 2012 - 61% on grade level, (13% below basic). State - 67% of 11th graders are on grade level.
- 2011 - 78% (6% below basic). State - 69.1% 
- 2010 - 68% (12% below basic). State - 66% 
- 2009 - 61% (21% below basic). State - 65% 
- 2008 - 61% (16% below basic). State - 65% 
- 2007 - 63% (23% below basic). State - 65% 
11th Grade Math:
- 2012 - 62% on grade level (20% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 59% of 11th graders are on grade level.
- 2011 - 68% (10% below basic). State - 60.3% 
- 2010 - 64% (14% below basic). State - 59% 
- 2009 - 44% (26% below basic). State - 56% 
- 2008 - 54% (21% below basic). State - 56% 
- 2007 - 44% (31% below basic). State - 53% 
11th Grade Science:
- 2012 - 48% on grade level (8% below basic). State - 42% of 11th graders were on grade level.
- 2011 - 46% (7% below basic). State - 40% 
- 2010 - 56% (16% below basic). State - 39%
- 2009 - 36% (11% below basic). State - 40% 
- 2008 - 41% (5% below basic). State - 39% 
College remediation rate
According to a Pennsylvania Department of Education study released in January 2009, 21% of the Laurel Senior 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. 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. 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.
Laurel High School offers a dual enrollment program. This state program permits high school students to take courses, at local higher education institutions, to earn college credits. Students remain enrolled at their high school. The courses count towards high school graduation requirements and towards earning a college degree. 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 offered a small grant to assist students in costs for tuition, fees and books. Under the Pennsylvania Transfer and Articulation Agreement, many Pennsylvania colleges and universities accept these credits for students who transfer to their institutions.
For the 2009-10 funding year, Laurel School District received a state grant of $2,812 for the program.
Among Pennsylvania's 500 public school districts, graduation requirements widely vary. Laurel School Board has determined that a pupil must earn 23 credits to graduate, including: a required class every year in math 4 credits, English 4 credits, social studies 4 credits, science 3 credits, Physical Education 2 credits, Computer 0.5 credit, Career Exploration .25 credit, Driver Education 0.25 credit, Graduation Project 0.50 credit, Arts and Humanities 2 credits and electives. Only credits earned in 9th through 12th grade can be used towards graduation. A 9th grade student must earn 6 credits to be promoted to 10th grade. Again in 10th grade a student must earn a minimum of 6 more credits to enter 11th grade.
By law, all Pennsylvania secondary school students must complete a project as a part of their eligibility to graduate from high school. The type of project, its rigor and its expectations are set by the individual school district. Effective with the graduating class of 2017, the Pennsylvania Board of Education eliminated the state mandate that students complete a culminating project in order to graduate.
By Pennsylvania School Board regulations, beginning with the class of 2017, public school students must demonstrate successful completion of secondary level course work in Algebra I, Biology, and English Literature by passing the Keystone Exams. For the class of 2019, a composition exam will be added. For the class of 2020, passing a civics and government exam will be added to the graduation requirements. In 2011, Pennsylvania high school students field tested the Algebra 1, Biology and English Lit exams. The statewide results were: Algebra 1 38% on grade level, Biology 35% on grade level and English Lit - 49% on grade level. Individual student, school or district reports were not made public, although they were reported to district officials by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Students identified as having special needs and qualifying for an Individual Educational Program (IEP) may graduate by meeting the requirements of their IEP.
In 2012, 74 Laurel School District students took the SAT exams. The District's Verbal Average Score was 483. The Math average score was 492. The Writing average score was 473. 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, 72 Laurel School District students took the SAT exams. The District's Verbal Average Score was 485. The Math average score was 479. The Writing average score was 462. Pennsylvania ranked 40th among states with SAT scores: Verbal - 493, Math - 501, Writing - 479. 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.
Junior high school
- PSSA Results:
8th Grade Reading:
8th Grade Math:
8th Grade Science:
- 2012 - 64% on grade level (21% below basic). State - 59%
- 2011 - 69% (13% below basic). State – 58.3%
- 2010 - 47% (6% below basic). State – 57% 
- 2009 - 61% (20% below basic). State - 55% 
- 2008 - 64%, (11% below basic). State - 52% 
- 2007 - tested, but results not made public.
7th Grade Reading:
7th Grade Math:
Laurel Elementary School is located at 223 McCaslin Road, New Castle. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2011, Laurel Elementary School reported an enrollment of 695 pupils in grades kindergarten through 6th, with 250 pupils receiving a federal free or reduced-price lunch due to family poverty. The school is a federally designated title I school. Laurel Elementary School employed 38 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 18:1. According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of its teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind. In 2011 and 2012, Laurel Elementary School achieved AYP status. The failure of the elementary school to improve student achievement in reading has left many children struggling in the reading based curriculum in junior high school and high school.
- PSSA Results
6th Grade Reading:
6th Grade Math:
5th Grade Reading:
5th Grade Math:
- 4th Grade Science
- 2012 - 85%, (5% below basic). State - 82%
- 2011 - 90%, (4% below basic). State - 82.9%
- 2010 - 83%, (7% below basic). State - 81%
- 2009 - 82%, (2% below basic). State - 83%
- 2008 - 83%, (7% below basic). State - 81%
In December 2010, the District administration reported that 124 pupils or 9% of the district's pupils received Special Education services, with just 20% of the identified students having a specific learning disability. In December 2009, the District administration reported that 128 pupils or 9.2% of the district's pupils received Special Education services, with just 21% of the identified students having a specific learning disability. Special education services in the Commonwealth are provided to students from ages three years to 21 years old. In the 2010-11 school year, the total student enrollment was more than 1.78 million students with approximately 275,000 students eligible for special education services. Among these students 18,959 were identified with mental retardation and 21,245 students with autism. The largest group of students are identified as Specific Learning Disabilities 126,026 students (46.9 percent) and Speech or Language Impairments with 43,542 students (16.2 percent).
In order to comply with state and federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act rules and regulations, Laurel School District runs various 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. To identify students who may be eligible for special education services, 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 Special Education administration. 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 district's Special Education Department.
In 2010, the state of Pennsylvania provided $1,026,815,000 for special education services. This funding is in addition to the state's basic education per pupil funding, as well as, all other state and federal funding. The Special Education funding structure is through the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) funds and state appropriations. IDEA funds are appropriated to the state on an annual basis and distributed through intermediate units (IUs) to school districts, while state funds are distributed directly to the districts. Total funds that are received by school districts are calculated through a formula. The Pennsylvania Department of Education oversees four appropriations used to fund students with special needs: Special Education; Approved Private Schools; Pennsylvania Chartered Schools for the Deaf and Blind; and Early Intervention. 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. Over identification 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. The state requires each public school district and charter school to have a three-year special education plan to meet the unique needs of its special education students. In 2012, the Obama Administration's US Department of Education issued a directive that schools include students with disabilities in extracurricular activities, including sports.
Laurel School District received a $796,121 supplement for special education services in 2010. For the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years, 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.
Laurel School District Administration reported that 32 or 2.35% of its students were gifted in 2010. The highest percentage of gifted students reported among all 500 school districts and 100 public charter schools in Pennsylvania was North Allegheny School District with 15.5% of its students identified as gifted. By law, laurel School District must provide mentally gifted programs at all grade levels. 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.
According to Pennsylvania Department of Education enrollment reports, there are were 1364 students enrolled in K-12 in 2009–10 school year at Laurel School District. There were 105 students in the Class of 2009. Laurel School District's Class of 2010 had 106 students. The Class of 2019 will have an estimated 79 students. Enrollment is projected to decline to 1200 students by 2019.< In 2008, Laurel School District's administrative costs were $708.34 per pupil. The lowest administrative cost per pupil in Pennsylvania was $398 per pupil. A study of Pennsylvania public school spending, conducted by Standard and Poor's, examined the consolidation of small school district's administration with neighboring districts like: Shenango Area School District, New Castle Area School District, Neshannock Township School District and Ellwood City Area School District. The study found that consolidation of the administration with an adjacent school district would achieve substantial administrative cost savings.
According to a 2009 public school district administration consolidation proposal by Governor Edward Rendell, the excessive administrative overhead dollars could be redirected to improve lagging academic achievement, to enrich the academic programs or to reduce property taxes. Consolidation of two central administrations into one would not require the closing of any schools. The Governor's proposal called for the savings to be redirected to improving lagging reading and science achievement, to enriching the academic programs or to reducing residents' property taxes.
Since 2000, rural Pennsylvania public school enrollment has decreased by 8 percent. As the enrollment declined, per pupil administrative costs of the districts continued to rise. In March 2011, the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants released a report finding that the state would save hundreds of millions of tax dollars, by cutting the number of school administrations in half through consolidation, with no impact on programs offered to students.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has one of the highest numbers of public school districts in the nation with 500 in 2013. In Pennsylvania, 80% of the public school districts serve student populations under 5,000, and 40% serve less than 2,000 pupils. In a survey of 88 superintendents of small districts like Laurel School District, 42% of the 49 respondents stated that they thought consolidation would save money without closing any schools.
Laurel School Board established a district wellness policy in 2010. The policy deals with nutritious meals served at school, the control of access to some foods and beverages during school hours, age appropriate nutrition education for all students, and physical education for students K-12. The policy is in response to state mandates and federal legislation (P.L. 108 – 265). The law dictates that each school district participating in a program authorized by the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (42 U.S.C. 1751 et seq) or the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 (42 U.S.C. 1771 et seq) "shall establish a local school wellness policy by School Year 2006." Most districts identified the superintendent and school foodservice director as responsible for ensuring local wellness policy implementation.
The legislation placed the responsibility of developing a wellness policy at the local level so the individual needs of each district can be addressed. According to the requirements for the Local Wellness Policy, school districts must set goals for nutrition education, physical activity, campus food provision, and other school-based activities designed to promote student wellness. Additionally, public school districts were required to involve a broad group of individuals in policy development and to have a plan for measuring policy implementation. Districts were offered a choice of levels of implementation for limiting or prohibiting low nutrition foods on the school campus. In final implementation these regulations prohibit some foods and beverages on the school campus. The Pennsylvania Department of Education required the District to submit a copy of the policy for approval. The District has not participated in the Highmark Healthy High 5 grants.
Laurel School District offers both a free school breakfast and a free or reduced-price lunch to low-income children. The program is funded with federal dollars through the United States Department of Agriculture.
School safety and bullying
The Laurel School District administration reported there were zero incidents of bullying in the district in 2011-12. There were 7 incidents that involved the police, including an assault on a student.
Laurel School Board has provided the district's antibully policy online. All Pennsylvania schools are required to have an anti-bullying policy incorporated into their Code of Student Conduct in 2006. The policy must identify disciplinary actions for bullying and designate a school staff person to receive complaints of bullying. The policy must be available on the school's website and posted in every classroom. All Pennsylvania public schools must provide a copy of its anti-bullying policy to the Office for Safe Schools every year, and shall review their policy every three years. Additionally, the Laurel School District must conduct an annual review of that policy with students. The Center for Schools and Communities works in partnership with the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime & Delinquency and the Pennsylvania Department of Education to assist schools and communities as they research, select and implement bullying prevention programs and initiatives.
Education standards relating to student safety and antiharassment programs are described in the 10.3. Safety and Injury Prevention in the Pennsylvania Academic Standards for Health, Safety and Physical Education.
Pennsylvania public school districts budget and expend funds according to procedures mandated by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE). An annual operating budget is prepared by school district administrative officials. A uniform form is furnished by the PDE and submitted to the board of school directors for approval prior to the beginning of each fiscal year on July 1.
Under Pennsylvania’s Taxpayer Relief Act, Act 1 of the Special Session of 2006, all school districts of the first class A, second class, third class and fourth class must adopt a preliminary budget proposal. The proposal must include estimated revenues and expenditures and the proposed tax rates. This proposed budget must be considered by the Board no later than 90 days prior to the date of the election immediately preceding the fiscal year. The preliminary budget proposal must also be printed and made available for public inspection at least 20 days prior to its adoption. The board of school directors may hold a public hearing on the budget, but are not required to do so. The board must give at least 10 days’ public notice of its intent to adopt the final budget according to Act 1 of 2006.
In 2011, Laurel School District employed 100 teachers with the average teacher salary at $62,041 a year. The top salary was $118,799.
In 2009, Laurel School District reported employing 108 teachers and administrators with a median salary of $57,509 and a top salary of $110,018. The teacher’s work day is 7 hours and 15 minutes with a 30-minute duty-free lunch and a daily preparation period. There are 180 student days in the contract year. Additionally, the teachers receive a defined benefit pension, health insurance, dental insurance (with orthodontics coverage), professional development reimbursement, 5 paid personal days, 11 paid sick days which accumulate (the state mandates 10 days), death leave of 5 paid days, and other benefits. Teacher with 5 years of service are eligible for sabbatical leave at 1/2 pay and full fringe benefits. Teachers receive longevity bonuses on top of their salaries in addition to a retirement bonus. Special education teachers receive an extra $300 a year. The local union's president receives a lighter teaching load in order to conduct union business during the school day. The union receives 15 paid days to conduct out of school union business. The union pays for a substitute teacher. The School Board is required to appoint 14 Department Heads who receive additional compensation of $1200 each year. Teachers who are required to due work after school hours receive additional compensation at an hourly rate. 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.
In 2008 Laurel School District administration reported that per pupil spending was $10,295 which ranked 455th among Pennsylvania's 501 school districts. In 2010, the per pupil spending at Laurel School District had increased to $11,400.44. Among the states, Pennsylvania’s total per pupil revenue (including all sources) ranked 11th at $15,023 per student, in 2008-09. In 2007, the Pennsylvania per pupil total expenditures was $12,759. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that Pennsylvania spent $8,191 per pupil in school year year 2000-01.
Reserves In 2008, Laurel School District reported a balance of $5,276,000 in its unreserved-designated fund. The unreserved-undesignated fund balance was reported as $942,036.  In 2010, Laurel School District Administration reported an increase to $1,089,924 in the unreserved-undesignated fund balance. The District reported $5,521,345 in its unreserved-designated fund in 2010. Pennsylvania public 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.
In June 2012, the Pennsylvania Auditor General conducted a performance audit of the District. The findings were reported to the Laurel School Board and the District’s administration.
Students who live in the District's attendance area may choose to attend one of Pennsylvania's 157 public charter schools. A student living in a neighboring public school district or a foreign exchange student may seek admission to Area School District. For these cases, the Pennsylvania Department of Education sets an annual tuition rate for each school district. It is the amount the public school district pays to a charter school for each resident student that attends the charter and it is the amount a nonresident student's parents must pay to attend the District's schools. The 2012 tuition rates are Laurel Elementary School - $8,202.61, High School - $8,879.95.
Laurel School District is funded by a combination of: a local earned income tax and net profits tax 0.5%, a $10.00 tax per capita tax: $5.00 under Act 511 and $5.00 under School Code, a property tax, a real estate transfer tax 0.5%, coupled with substantial funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the federal government. Interest earnings on accounts also provide nontax income to the district. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, pension income and Social Security income are exempted from state personal income tax and local earned income tax, regardless of the level of the individual’s personal wealth.
State basic education funding
For the 2012-13 school year, Laurel School District received $7,401,425. 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 program. Laurel School District received $113,347 in Accountability funding. The state also provided a $544.4 million payment for School Employees’ Social Security and $856 million for School Employees’ Retirement fund called PSERS.
In 2011-12, Laurel School District received a 6.71% increase or $7,288,078 allocation of state Basic Education Funding. Additionally, Laurel School District received $113,347 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 was a $233,290,000 increase (4.6%) over the enacted State appropriation for 2010-2011. 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. In 2010, the district reported that 389 students received free or reduced-price lunches, due to the family meeting the federal poverty level.
In the 2010-11 budget year, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provided a 2.49% increase in Basic Education Funding for a total of $7,693,223. Among the public school districts in Lawrence County, the highest increase went to New Castle Area School District which got a 6.51% increase. One hundred fifty Pennsylvania school districts received the base 2% increase. The highest increase in 2010-11 went to Kennett Consolidated School District in Chester County which received a 23.65% increase in state funding. The state's hold harmless policy regarding state basic education funding continued where each district received at least the same amount as it received the prior school year, even when 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 budget year, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provided a 3% increase in Basic Education Funding for a total of $7,506,483. Among the districts in Lawrence County, the highest increase went to Wilmington Area School District which got a 4.36% increase. Ninety school Pennsylvania public school districts received a 2% increase. Muhlenberg School District in Berks County received a 22.31% increase in state basic education funding in 2009. The amount of increase each school district received was set by Governor Edward G. Rendell and the Secretary of Education Gerald Zahorchak, as a part of the state budget proposal. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Pennsylvania spent $7,824 Per Pupil in the year 2000. This amount increased up to $12,085 by the year 2008.
The state Basic Education Funding to Laurel School District in 2008-09 was $7,288,078.27. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 330 district students received free or reduced-price lunches due to low family income in the 2007–2008 school year.
Accountability Block Grants
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, Laurel School District applied for and received $307,653 in addition to all other state and federal funding. The district uses the funding to provide full-day kindergarten and to improve instruction in science.
Classrooms for the Future grant
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 to 2009. The Laurel School District did not apply to participate in 2006-07. In 2007-08 the District received $134,111. Laurel School District received $45,413 in 2008-09 for a total funding of 179,524. In Lawrence County the highest award was given to New Castle Area School Districtreceived $331,805. The highest funding state wide was awarded to Philadelphia City School District in Philadelphia County - $9,409,073. In 2010, Classrooms for the Future funding was curtailed statewide due to a massive state financial crisis.
Education Assistance grant
The state's EAP funding provides for the continuing support of tutoring services and other programs to address the academic needs of eligible students. Funds are 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, Laurel School District received $29,166.
Laurel School District was awarded a $458,542 competitive literacy grant. It is to be used to improve reading skills birth through 12th grade. Laurel School District was the only Lawrence County public school district to participate. The district is required to develop a lengthly literacy plan, which included outreach into the community. The funds come from a Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy grant, also referred to as the Keystones to Opportunity grant It is a five-year, competitive federal grant program designed to assist local education agencies in developing and implementing local comprehensive literacy plans. Of the 329 pre-applications by school districts reviewed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, School District was one of only 148 entities that were invited to submit a full application. In County 5 school districts and one charter school were awarded funding for one year. The funds must be used for teacher training, student screening and assessment, targeted interventions for students reading below grade level and research-based methods of improving classroom instruction and practice. Districts must hire literacy coaches. The coaches work with classroom teachers to enhance their literacy teaching skills. Pennsylvania was among six other states, out of the 35 that applied, to be awarded funding. Pennsylvania received $38 million through the federal program. The Department of Education reserved 5% of the grant for administration costs at the state level.
The District did not participate in: Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's Environmental Education grants, Science Its Elementary grants, nor the 21st Century learning grants.
Federal Stimulus grant
Laurel School District received an extra $2,286,658 in ARRA - Federal Stimulus money to be used in specific programs like special education and meeting the academic needs of low-income students. The funding was limited to the 2009-10 and 2010-2011 school years. 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
Laurel School District officials did not apply for the federal Race to the Top grant which would have provided over one million dollars in additional federal funding to improve student academic achievement. Participation required the administration, the school board and the local teachers' union to sign an agreement to prioritize improving student academic success. In Pennsylvania, 120 public school districts and 56 charter schools agreed to participate. 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.
Real estate taxes
Property tax rates in 2012-13 were set by the Laurel School Board at 12.4900 mills. 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 government property. Additionally, service related, disabled US military veterans may seek an exemption from paying property taxes. Pennsylvania 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, which are around 15% of revenues for school districts. When the school district includes municipalities in two counties, each of which has different rates of property tax assessment, a state board equalizes the tax rates between the counties. 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.
- 2011-12 - 12.4900 mills.
- 2010-11 - 12.4900 mills 
- 2009-10 - 12.0000 mills.
- 2008-09 - 11.4000 mills.
- 2007-08 - 10.7378 mills.
- 2006-07 - 10.2460 mills.
- 2005-06 - 10.2460 mills.
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. The average yearly property tax paid by Lawrence County residents amounts to about 2.94% of their yearly income. Lawrence County is ranked 636th of the 3143 United States counties for property taxes as a percentage of median income.
Act 1 Adjusted Index
The Act 1 of 2006 Index regulates the rates at which each school district can raise property taxes in Pennsylvania. Districts are not permitted to raise property taxes above their annual Index unless they either: allow voters to vote by referendum or they receive an exception from the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The base index for the school year is published by the PDE in the fall of each year. Each individual school district’s Act 1 Index can be adjusted higher, depending on a number of factors, such as local property values and the personal income of district residents. Originally, Act 1 or 2006 included 10 exceptions: 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. In June 2011, the Pennsylvania General Assembly eliminated six exceptions to the Act 1 Index. Several 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.
The School District Adjusted Index for the Laurel School District 2006-2007 through 2011-2012.
For the 2012-13 budget year, Laurel 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 2011-12 school year, the Laurel School Board did not apply for an exception to exceed the Act 1 Index. Each year, the Laurel 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.
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.
Property tax relief
In 2012, Laurel School District approved homestead residents received $162. In 2010, property tax relief for 2,246 approved residents of Laurel School District was set at $163. In 2009, the Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Relief from gambling for the Laurel School District was also $166 per approved permanent primary residence. In the district, 2,207 property owners applied for the tax relief. In Lawrence County, the highest tax relief went to New Castle Area School District which was set at $222. The highest property tax relief, among Pennsylvania school districts, went to the homesteads of Chester Upland School District of Delaware County which received $632 per approved homestead in 2010. Chester-Upland School District has consistently been the top recipient since the programs inception. The relief was subtracted from the total annual school property 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. In Lawrence County, 51.25% of eligible property owners applied for property tax relief in 2009. This was among the lowest participation rates in Pennsylvania.
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 people who have an income of substantially more than $35,000 may still qualify for a rebate. Individuals must apply annually for the rebate. This tax rebate can be taken in addition to Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Relief. In 2012, Pennsylvania Secretary of the Treasury reported issuing more than half a million property tax rebates totaling $238 million. The program is funded by the Pennsylvania Lottery. Property tax rebates are increased by an additional 50 percent for senior households in the state, so long as those households have incomes under $30,000 and pay more than 15% of their income in property taxes.
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%).
The Laurel School District offers a wide variety of clubs, activities and an extensive and costly sports program. Eligibility for participation is determined by school board policy and PIAA regulations. The sports programs are through the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association.
By Pennsylvania law, all K-12 students residing in the district, including those who attend a private nonpublic school, cyber charter school, charter school and those homeschooled, 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.
The District funds:
- Junior High School Sports
According to PIAA directory July 2012 
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