Leechburg Area School District

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Leechburg Area School District
Map of Armstrong County Pennsylvania School Districts.png
Address
210 Penn Avenue
Leechburg, Pennsylvania, Armstrong County and Westmoreland County, 15656
United States
Information
Closed Leechburg Middle School (2007), Gilpin ES (1996)
School board 9 members elected at large
Superintendent Terence Meehan, $125,000 eff January 2014 5 year contract[1]
Administrator Mr Mark A Lukacs, business manager
Staff 55.9 non teaching staff members
Faculty 57 teachers
Grades PreK-12
Pupils 812 students (2012), 798 students (2009–10)[2]
Kindergarten 61
Grade 1 55
Grade 2 63
Grade 3 62
Grade 4 62
Grade 5 58
Grade 6 61
Grade 7 66
Grade 8 63
Grade 9 68
Grade 10 70
Grade 11 54
Grade 12 48
Graduates (2008) 46
Per Pupil Spending $12,755.63 (2008)[3]
Per Pupil Spending $14,034.96 (2010)[4]
Per Pupil Spending $13,921.52 (2011)[5]
Website
Leechburg Area School District region in Westmoreland County

The Leechburg Area School District is a small, public school district serving K–12 students from Leechburg Borough and Gilpin Township in Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, and West Leechburg Borough in Westmoreland County in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. The district is one of the 500 public school districts of Pennsylvania. It encompasses approximately 20 square miles (52 km2). According to 2000 federal census data, it served a resident population of 6,263. By 2010, the district's population had declined to 5,938 people.[6] In 2009, the residents’ per capita income was $17,586, while the median family income was $42,950.[7] In the Commonwealth, the median family income was $49,501 [8] and the United States median family income was $49,445, in 2010.[9] By 2013, the median household income in the United States rose to $52,100.[10]

According to district officials, in school year 2009-10, Leechburg Area School District provided basic educational services to 826 pupils. It employed: 69 teachers, 32 full-time and part-time support personnel, and nine administrators. Leechburg Area School District received more than $5.8 million in state funding in school year 2009-10.

Leechburg Area School District operates just two schools: David Leech Elementary School and Leechburg Area Middle/High School.

The high school building was originally built in 1922, and the elementary building in 1955. Both school facilities underwent a major renovation in the mid-1990s. This work combined the separate elementary and high school buildings into one building. The Baker building was also connected by using a sky walk. Afterward, it was possible to reach any part of the 3 buildings without traveling outside, increasing security and keeping students from having to cross a public road to get into the Baker Building. The renovation also included new doors that were not able to be opened from the outside during school hours. The renovation of the facilities cost approximately $12 million.

Governance[edit]

Leechburg Area School District is governed by nine individually elected board members (serve four-year terms), the Pennsylvania State Board of Education, the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Pennsylvania General Assembly.[11] 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 school board enters into individual employment contracts for these positions. In Pennsylvania, public school districts are required to give 150 days notice to the superintendent regarding renewal of the employment contract.

The Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives Sunshine Review gave the school board and district administration a "D" 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.[12]

Academic achievement[edit]

Leechburg Area School District was ranked 412th out of 498 Pennsylvania school districts in 2013 by the Pittsburgh Business Times, based on the last three years of student academic performance on the PSSAs for: math, reading, writing and science.[13] The PSSAs are given to all children in grades 3 through 8 and the 11th grade in high school. Adapted examinations are given to children in the special education programs. Writing exams were given to children in 5th, 8th and 11th grades.

  • 2012 - 416th [14]
  • 2010 - 400th[15]
  • 2009 - 342nd
  • 2008 - 252nd out of 500 Pennsylvania school districts.
  • 2007 - 177th out of 501 school districts[16]
Western Pennsylvania region ranking

Leechburg Area School District was ranked 81st out of 105 Western Pennsylvania School Districts in 2013 by the Pittsburgh Business Times, based on the last three years of student academic performance on the PSSAs for: math, reading, writing and science.[17] (includes 105 districts in: Allegheny County, Armstrong County, Beaver County, Butler County, Fayette County, Washington County and Westmoreland County, but excludes Duquesne City School District and Midland Borough School District due to their not operating a high school.)

  • 2012 - 85th
  • 2010 - 83rd[18]
  • 2009 - 76th out of 105 western Pennsylvania school districts.[19]
  • 2008 - 62nd out of 105 western Pennsylvania school districts.
Overachiever statewide ranking

In 2013, the Pittsburgh Business Times also reported an Overachievers Ranking for 498 Pennsylvania school districts. Leechburg Area School District ranked 473rd. In 2012, the District was ranked 488th.[20] 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."[21]

In 2009, the academic achievement of the students of Leechburg Area School District was in the bottom 26th percentile among 500 Pennsylvania school districts. Scale - (0-99; 100 is state best)[22]

District AYP status history[edit]

In 2012, Leechburg Area School District achieved AYP status.[23] In 2011, Leechburg Area School District also 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 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.[24] Leechburg Area School District achieved AYP status each year from 2003 to 2010.[25]

Graduation rate[edit]

In 2012, Leechburg Area School District’s graduation rate was 98%.[26] In 2011, the graduation rate was 92%.[27] In 2010, the Pennsylvania Department of Education issued a new, four-year cohort graduation rate. Leechburg Area High School's rate was 92% for 2010.[28] In 2006, 47% of the graduates from Leechburg Area High School did not achieve proficient or better on the PSSA's for Mathematics and Reading.[29]

According to traditional graduation rate calculations
  • 2010 - 100%
  • 2009 - 93%[30]
  • 2007 - 90%

High school[edit]

Leechburg Area High School is located at 215 First Street, Leechburg. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2011, Leechburg Area High School reported an enrollment of 371 pupils in grades 7 through 12, with 99 pupils eligible for a federal free or reduced price lunch due to the family meeting the federal poverty level. The school is not a Title I school. The school employed 28 teachers, yielding a student-teacher ratio of 12:1.[31] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, three teachers were rated "Non‐Highly Qualified" under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.[32]

Western Pennsylvania Academic Ranking

Leechburg Area High School ranked 65th out of 123 high school in the western Pennsylvania region for academic achievement based on the last three years of PSSA results on: math, reading, writing and science, according to the Pittsburgh Business Times in April 2013.

  • 2012 - 50th
  • 2010 - 82nd
  • 2009 - 62nd out of 123 western Pennsylvania high schools
AYP History

In 2012, Leechburg Area Junior Senior High School achieved Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) even though the school missed all reading and mathematics metrics measured on the PSSAs.[33] In 2011, Leechburg Area Junior Senior High School declined to Warning AYP status due to lagging student academic achievement in both reading and mathematics.[34]

PSSA Results
11th Grade Reading
  • 2012 - 81% on grade level, (11% below basic). State - 67% of 11th graders are on grade level.[35]
  • 2011 - 79% (12% below basic). State - 69.1%[36]
  • 2010 - 67%, State - 67%[37]
  • 2009 - 78%, State - 65% [38]
  • 2008 - 63%, State - 65%[39]
  • 2007 - 85%, State - 65%[40]
11th Grade Math:
  • 2012 - 59% on grade level (24% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 59% of 11th graders are on grade level.[41]
  • 2011 - 54% (21% below basic). State - 60.3% [42]
  • 2010 - 57%, State - 59%[43]
  • 2009 - 56%, State - 55%
  • 2008 - 54%, State - 56%
  • 2007 - 57%, State - 53%
11th Grade Science:
  • 2012 - 64% on grade level (3% below basic). State - 42% of 11th graders were on grade level.[44]
  • 2011 - 44% (10% below basic). State - 40% [45]
  • 2010 - 74%, State - 39%[46]
  • 2009 - 51%, State - 40%
  • 2008 - 43%, State - 39%[47]

College remediation rate[edit]

According to a Pennsylvania Department of Education study released in January 2009, 23% of the Leechburg Area 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.[48] 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.[49] 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 a dual enrollment program.[50] 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 offers a small grant to assist students in costs for tuition, fees and books.[51] Under the Pennsylvania Transfer and Articulation Agreement, many Pennsylvania colleges and universities accept these credits for students who transfer to their institutions.[52]

  • 2010-11 state grant of $4,214 for the program.[53]
  • 2009-10 - $3,997 [54]

Graduation requirements[edit]

The Leechburg School Board has determined that a pupil must earn 25 credits to graduate, including: English 4 credits, Social Studies 4 credits, Science 3 credits, Math 4 credits must take Algebra 1, Physical Education 1 credit, health 0.5 credits, Art/Humanities 2 credits, Graduation Project and Community service 0.5 credits and electives 5 credits.[55]

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.[56] Effective with the graduating class of 2017, the Pennsylvania State Board of Education eliminated the state mandate that students complete a culminating project in order to graduate.[57]

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.[58] The exam is given at the end of the course. Keystone Exams replace the PSSAs for 11th grade.[59]

Students have several opportunities to pass the exam. Those who do not pass after several attempts can perform a project in order to graduate.[60][61] 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.[62] 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.[63] 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.

SAT scores[edit]

In 2012, 36 Leechburg Area School District students took the SAT exams. The District's Verbal Average Score was 508. The Math average score was 500. The Writing average score was 488. 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, 44 Leechburg Area School District students took the SAT exams. The District's Verbal Average Score was 489. The Math average score was 489. The Writing average score was 482.[64] Pennsylvania ranked 40th among states with SAT scores: Verbal - 493, Math - 501, Writing - 479.[65] 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.[66]

Eighth grade[edit]

In 2013, the eighth grade ranked 114th out of 155 8th grades in the Western Pennsylvania region. The Pittsburgh Business Times based the ranking on the last three years of student academic achievement in PSSAs in: reading, math writing and science.[67] (Includes public schools in: Allegheny County, Beaver County, Butler County, Fayette County, Westmoreland County, and Washington County)

  • 2012 - 114th
  • 2010 - 107th
  • 2009 - 105th out of 141 western Pennsylvania eight grades[68]
Reading
  • 2012 - 76% on grade level (8% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 79% of 8th graders on grade level.[69]
  • 2011 - 81% (8% below basic) State - 81.8%
  • 2010 - 76%, State - 81%
  • 2009 - 78%, State - 80%
  • 2008 - 74%, State - 78%
Math:
  • 2012 - 57% on grade level (11% below basic). State - 76% [70]
  • 2011 - 67% (16% below basic). State - 76.9%
  • 2010 - 63%, State - 75%
  • 2009 - 67%, State - 71%[71]
  • 2008 - 64%, State - 70%
Science:
  • 2012 - % on grade level (% below basic). State - 59%
  • 2011 - % (% below basic). State – 58.3%
  • 2010 - 61% on grade level. State - 57%
  • 2009 - 58%, State - 55%.[72]
  • 2008 - 58%, State - 52% [73]
  • 2007 - tested, but results not made public.

Seventh Grade[edit]

In 2013, the 7th grade was ranked 93rd out of 105 local western Pennsylvania middle schools based on three years of student academic achievement in PSSAs in: reading, math writing and science.[74]

  • 2012 - 93rd
  • 2010 - 109th [75]

David Leech Elementary School[edit]

David Leech Elementary School is located at 200 Siberian Avenue, Leechburg. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2012, the school reported an enrollment of 433 pupils in grades kindergarten through 6th, with 43.8% of its pupils receiving a federal free or reduced price lunch due to family poverty. The school is a federally designated Title I school. The school employed teachers yielding a student-teacher ratio of :1.[76] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 67% of its teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.[77] The school provides half day kindergarten to all its pupils.[78]

2013 School Performance Profile

David Leech Elementary School achieved a score of 87.2 out of 100. The score reflects on grade level: reading, science, writing and mathematics achievement. In 2012-13, only 67% of the students were reading on grade level in grades 3rd through 6th. In 3rd grade, 66% of the pupils were reading on grade level. In math, 74.9% were on grade level (3rd-6th grades). In 4th grade science, 80% of the pupils demonstrated on grade level understanding. In writing only 71% of 5th grade pupils demonstrated on grade level skills.[79]

AYP History

In 2011 and 2012, David Leech Elementary School achieved AYP status even though it missed all reading metrics measured.[80] In 2012, only % of the students were reading on grade level in grades 3rd through 6th. In math, % of the students in 3rd through 6th grades were on grade level and % scored advanced. In 4th grade science, % of the pupils were on grade level.[81]

6th Grade:
4th Grade Science:
  • 2012 - 81%, (9% below basic). State - 82%
  • 2011 - 85%, (6% below basic). State - 82.9%
  • 2010 - 77%, State - 81%
  • 2009 - 84%, State - 83%
  • 2008 - 87%, State - 81%

Bullying policy[edit]

In 2009 the administrative reported there were zero incidents of bullying in the district.[87][88]

The Leechburg School Board prohibits bullying by district students and faculty. The policy defines bullying and cyberbullying. The Board directs that complaints of bullying shall be investigated promptly, and corrective action shall be taken when allegations are verified. No reprisals or retaliation shall occur as a result of good faith reports of bullying.[89] The board expects staff members to be responsible to maintain an educational environment free from all forms of bullying. All Pennsylvania schools are required to have an anti-bullying policy incorporated into their Code of Student Conduct. 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 district must conduct an annual review of that policy with students.[90] 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.[91]

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.[92]

Special education[edit]

In December 2011, the District administration reported that 151 pupils or 18.3% of the district's pupils received Special Education services, with 67.5% of the identified students having a specific learning disability.[93] In December 2009, the District administration reported that 131 pupils or 15.9% of the district's pupils received Special Education services, with 60% 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.[94] 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 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.[95] 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.[96] 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.[97] 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.[98] In 2012, the Obama Administration's US Department of Education issued a directive that schools include students with disabilities in extracurricular activities, including sports.[99]

The Leechburg Area School District received a $495,350 supplement for special education services in 2010.[100] For the 2011-12, 2012–13 and 2013-14 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.[101][102] Additionally, the state provides supplemental funding for extraordinarily impacted students. The District must apply for this added funding.

Gifted education[edit]

The Leechburg Area School District Administration reported that 61 or 7.87% of its students were gifted in 2009. 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.[103] By law, Leechburg Area 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.[104][105]

Budget[edit]

Pennsylvania public school districts budget and expend funds according to procedures mandated by the General Assembly and 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.[106]

In 2012, the average teacher salary in Leechburg Area School District was $64,090.10 a year, while the cost of the benefits teachers received was $24,947.90 per employee, for a total annual average teacher compensation of $89,038.[107] The District employed 200 teachers with an average salary of $59,911 and a top salary of $127,000.[108]

In 2009, the Leechburg Area School District reported employing 72 teachers with a salary range of $40,000 to $114,635 for 187 days.[109] The average teacher salary in the district is $58,585 in 2009.[110] Teachers also receive a benefits package that includes: paid sick days, paid personal days, reimbursement for college courses, health insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance and a defined benefit pension.[111] Teachers work 7 hours 30 minutes with a 30-minute duty-free lunch and a daily preparation period. Teachers receive additional compensation at an hourly rate for work outside of the regular school day. After 10 years of service, retiring employees receive a cash bonus of $100 per year of employment, in addition to their PSERS pension.

In 2007, the district employed 66 teachers. The average teacher salary in the district was $56,684 for 180 days worked.[112] 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.[113] Additionally, the teachers receive a defined benefit pension, health insurance, professional development reimbursement, personal days, sick days, and other benefits.[114]

Per pupil spending Leechburg Area School District administrative costs per pupil in 2008 was $707.15 per pupil. The lowest administrative cost per pupil in Pennsylvania was $398 per pupil.[115] The Pennsylvania School Boards Association keeps statistics on salaries of public school district employees in Pennsylvania. According to the association's report, the average salary for a superintendent for the 2007-08 school year was $122,165. Superintendents and administrators receive a benefit package commensurate with that offered to the district's teachers' union.[116] Leechburgh Area School district superintendeet contract contains a buyout clause.[117] In September 2010, the school board voted to retain Superintendent James Budzilek for 5 years beginning in 2011, at a salary of $121,600.[118]

In 2008, the Leechburg Area School District administration reported that per pupil spending was $21,352 per pupil which ranked 9th among Pennsylvania's then 501 public school districts. In 2010, the District’s per pupil spending had declined to $13,921.52.[119] In 2011, Pennsylvania’s per pupil spending was $13,467, ranking 6th in the United States.[120] In 2007, the Pennsylvania per pupil total expenditures was reported as $12,759.[121]

The U.S. Census Bureau reported that Pennsylvania spent $8,191 per pupil in school year 2000-01.[122] In 2007, the Pennsylvania per pupil total expenditures was reported as $12,759.[123] Among the fifty states, Pennsylvania’s total per pupil revenue (including all sources) ranked 11th at $15,023 per student, in 2008-09.[124] Pennsylvania’s total revenue per pupil rose to $16,186 ranking 9th in the nation in 2011.[125]

Audit In March 2010, the Pennsylvania Auditor General conducted a performance audit of the district. The findings were reported to both the administration and the school board.[126]

Reserves In 2008, the Leechburg Area School District reported a $911,752 balance in unreserved-undesignated funds. The designated fund balance was reported as zero.[127] In 2012, Leechburg Area School District Administration reported an increase to $2,366,289 in the its fund balances. 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.[128] By 2013, reserves held by Pennsylvania public school districts, as a whole, had increased to over $3.8 billion.[129]

Tuition Students who live in the Leechburg Area School 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 Leechburg 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 Elementary School - $9,848.70, High School - $11,142.02.[130]

The Leechburg Area School District is funded by a combination of: a local earned income tax 0.5%, a property tax, a real estate transfer tax, per capita taxes of $10, annual Occupation Privilege Tax $10, coupled with substantial funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the federal government. 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 person's wealth.[131]

State basic education funding[edit]

According to a report from Representative Todd Stephens office, Leechburg Area School District receives 52.6% of its annual revenue from the state.[132]

For the 2013-14 school year, the Leechburg Area School District received a 1.5% increase or $4,067,748 in Pennsylvania Basic Education Funding. This is $59,392 more than its 2012-13 state BEF to the District. Additionally, Leechburg Area School District received $$49,824 in Accountability Block Grant funding to focus on academic achievement and level funding for special education services. Among the public school districts in Armstrong County, Freeport Area School District received the highest percentage increase in BEF at 2%. 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. Most of Pennsylvania’s 500 public school districts received an increase of Basic Education Funding in a range of 0.9% to 4%. Eight public school districts received exceptionally high funding increases of 10% to 16%. The highest increase in state funding was awarded to Austin Area School District which received a 22.5% increase in Basic Education Funding.[133] The state funded the PSERS (Pennsylvania school employee pension fund) with $1,017,000,000 and Social Security payments for school employees of $495 million.[134]

For the 2012-13 school year, the Leechburg Area School District received $4,008,356.[135] 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. Leechburg Area School District received $$49,824 in Accountability Block Grant funding to focus on academic achievement. The state also provided a $544.4 million payment for School Employees’ Social Security and $856 million for School Employees’ Retirement fund called PSERS.[136] 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, the Leechburg Area School District received a $4,008,356 allocation, of state Basic Education Funding, which was a 6.95% increase.[137][138] Additionally, the Leechburg Area School District received $49,824 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.[139] The highest increase in state basic education funding was awarded to Duquesne City School District of Allegheny County, which got a 49% increase in state funding for 2011-12.[140] In 2010, the District reported that 306 students received free or reduced price lunches, due to the family meeting the federal poverty level.[141]

For the 2010-11 budget year, the Leechburg Area School District was allotted a 2.05% increase in Basic Education Funding for a total of $4,227,068. The highest increase in Armstrong County was provided to Freeport Area School District in a 5.43% 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.[142] Fifteen (15) Pennsylvania public school districts received a BEF increase of greater than 10%. 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 public school districts at a far greater rate than others.[143]

In the 2009-2010 budget year, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provided the District a 3.21% increase in Basic Education Funding for a total of $4,137,166. Apollo-Ridge School District got a 5.38% increase in BEF. The state Basic Education Funding to the district in 2008-09 was $4,008,356. Ninety Pennsylvania school districts received the base 2% increase. Muhlenberg School District in Berks County received a 22.31% increase in state basic education funding in 2009.[144] 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.[145]

The state Basic Education Funding to the District in 2008-09 was $4,008,356. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 306 district students received free or reduced-price lunches due to low family income in the 2007–2008 school year.[146] 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.[147][148]

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, Leechburg Area School District applied for and received $135,234 in addition to all other state and federal funding. The district uses the funding to provide Increased Instructional Time for 87 pupils through before and after school tutoring and to pay teachers to write new curriculum and course offerings.[149][150]

In 2009-10, the grant was used to reform the high school curriculum, to increase instruction time through tutoring, and to fund social and emotional wellness and school safety programs.[151]

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. Leechburg Area School District did not apply for funding in 2006-07 or 2007-08. In 2008-09 the district received $74,691.[152] Among the public school districts in Armstrong County, the highest award was given to Armstrong School District which received $595,154. The highest funding statewide was awarded to Philadelphia City School District in Philadelphia County - $9,409,073. The grant program was discontinued by Governor Edward Rendell as part of the 2009-10 state budget.

Education Assistance grant[edit]

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 the Leechburg Area School District received $24,734.[153]

Science It’s Elementary grant[edit]

David Leech 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 66,973 students across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.[154] 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 was a hands on instruction approach for elementary science classes that develops problem-solving and critical thinking skills.[155] 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.[156] The district was required to develop a three-year implementation plan for the participating school. The school district administration was required to appoint a district liaison who was paid $3,000 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 for the program. The grant program was expanded to $14.5 million in the 2008-09 budget. The grant was discontinued in the state’s 2011 budget by Governor Edward G. Rendell.

Other grants[edit]

The Leechburg Area School District did not participate in: Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's Environmental Education annual grants, Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy grant, 2012 and 2013 Pennsylvania Hybrid Learning Grants,[157] nor the federal 21st Century Learning grants.

Federal Stimulus grant[edit]

The Leechburg Area School District received an extra $555,519 in ARRA - Federal Stimulus money to be used in specific programs like special education and meeting the academic needs of low-income students.[158] The funding was limited to the 2009-10 and 2010-2011 school years.[159] 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]

Leechburg Area School District officials did not apply for the federal Race to the Top grant which would have provided hundreds of thousands in additional federal dollars 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.[160] 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.[161][162][163]

Common Cents state initiative[edit]

The Leechburg Area School Board decided 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.[164] After the review of the information, the district was not required to implement the recommended cost savings changes.

Real estate taxes[edit]

Property tax rates in 2013-14 were set by the school board at 64.4900 mills for resident in Armstrong County. For district residents in Westmoreland County the levy is 106.5600 mills.[165] 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.

The average yearly property tax paid by Armstrong County residents amounts to about 3.35% of their yearly income. Armstrong County ranked 434th out of the 3143 United States counties for property taxes as a percentage of median income.[171] 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.[172] 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%).[173]

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 allowed 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.[174]

In June 2011, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed legislation eliminating six of the exceptions to the Act 1 Index.[175] 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.[176][177] The legislature also froze the payroll amount public school districts use to calculate the pension-plan exception at the 2012 payroll levels. Further increases in payroll cannot be used to raise the district’s exception for pension payments.

A specific timeline for Act I Index decisions is published annually, by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.[178]

The School District Adjusted Index for the Leechburg Area School District 2006-2007 through 2011-2012.[179]

For the 2013-14 budget year, Leechburg Area School Board did not apply for exceptions to exceed their Act 1 Index limit. For the school budget year 2013-14, 311 Pennsylvania public school districts adopted a resolution certifying that tax rates would not be increased above their index. Another 171 school districts adopted a preliminary budget leaving open the option of exceeded the Index limit. For the exception for pension costs, 89 school districts received approval to exceed the Index in full while others received a partial approval of their request. For special education costs, 75 districts received approval to exceed their tax limit. For the pension costs exception, 169 school districts received approval to exceed the Index. Eleven Pennsylvania public school districts received an approval for grandfathered construction debts.[183]

For the 2012-13 budget year, Leechburg Area 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.[184]

The Leechburg Area School Board did not apply for any exceptions to exceed the Act 1 index for the budget in 2008-09, 2009-10 or 2010-2011 [185][186][187] 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.[188]

Property tax relief[edit]

In 2010, the Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Relief from gambling for the Leechburg Area School District was $238 per approved permanent primary residence. In the district, 1,875 property owners applied for the tax relief.[189] 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 and must be the primary residence of the owner. Farmers can qualify for both the homestead exemption and the farmstead exemption. In Armstrong County, 77% of eligible property owners applied for property tax relief in 2009. In Westmoreland County, 62% of property owners applied for relief in 2009.[190] In Armstrong County, the highest amount of tax relief in 2010, went to Apollo-Ridge School District at $319. In Westmoreland County, the highest relief was $300 to the residents of New Kensington–Arnold School District. The highest property tax relief in Pennsylvania went to the residents of Chester Upland School District of Delaware County who received $632 per approved homestead.[191] This was the third year they were the top recipient.

Enrollment[edit]

The enrollment at Leechburg Area School district is projected, by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, to remain below 800 students for the next decade.[192]

A study was done by the Pennsylvania Legislative Budget and Finance Committee, examining consolidating Leechburg Area School District with neighboring Freeport Area School District. It was estimated that over $2 million in savings would be achieved.[193] The study noted that consolidation could significantly decrease administrative costs for both communities while improving offerings to students. Consolidation of school district administrations does not require the consolidation of schools.[194]

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).[195] Statewide, there are 187 districts that are projected to have an enrollment decline of 15 percent or greater. Geographically, these districts are clustered in western Pennsylvania and in the state’s northern tier.[196]

Pennsylvania has one of the highest numbers of school districts in the nation. In Pennsylvania, 80% of the school districts serve student populations under 5,000, and 40% serve less than 2,000. Less than 95 of Pennsylvania's 501 school districts have enrollment below 1250 students, in 2007.[197]

Extracurriculars[edit]

The Lechburg Area School District offers a variety of clubs, activities and an extensive costly sports program. Eligibility to participate is set through school board policy.

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 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.[198]

Sports[edit]

In March 2007, the boys basketball team, The Blue Devils, won against the California Trojans in the WPIAL championship. The score was 60-59. This was the first WPIAL boys' basketball championship win for Leechburg in the history of the school district. The Blue Devils have also won three (3) WPIAL football championships (1953, 1965, and 1966), three WPIAL softball championships (1991, 1992, and 1995) and two PIAA softball championships (1992 and 1995).Bold text

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  191. ^ Tax Relief per Homestead 2009, Pennsylvania Department of Education Report May 1, 2010
  192. ^ Pennsylvania Department of Education, Enrollment and Projections report by LEA, 2010
  193. ^ Pennsylvania Legislative Budget and Finance Committee, Study of the Cost Effectiveness of Consolidating Pennsylvania School Districts, 2007 Part 2 page 89.
  194. ^ School District Consolidation Fact Sheet
  195. ^ "Research Analyzes Rural School District Enrollment and Building Capacity", The Center for Rural Pennsylvania. October 2009.
  196. ^ Trends in Rural School Enrollment: A 20-Year Perspective. The Center for Rural Pennsylvania.
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  198. ^ Home-Schooled, Charter School Children Can Participate in School District Extracurricular Activities, Pennsylvania Office of the Governor Press Release, November 10, 2005

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