Monessen City School District

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Monessen City School District
Map of Westmoreland County Pennsylvania School Districts.png
Address
1275 Rostraver Street
Monessen, Pennsylvania, Westmoreland County, 15062-2049
United States
Information
Type Public
Superintendent Dr. Leanne Spazak, Acting Superintendent of Schools (2014) $90,000 1 year contract[1]
Administrator Mrs. Mildred Blasko, Supervisor of Special Education

Mrs. Linda S Powell, Business Manager
Mr. John Bachinski, Director of School Security
Mr. Doug Halinka, SupportServices Coordinator
Mrs. Kasandra Staffen, HS Guidance Counselor
Mrs. Cathi Carpenter, MS Guidance Counselor
Mrs. Fontana Crable, ES Guidance Counselor

Principal Mr. Brian Sutherland, High School Principal
Principal Mrs. Sherry L. Castaneda-Black, Middle School Principal
Principal Mrs. Bethanne Natali, Elementary School Principal
Staff 59 non teacher staff members
Grades Kindergarten - 12th
Age 5 years old to 21 years old special education
Number of students 875 students (2013) [2]
Kindergarten 77
Grade 1 67
Grade 2 60
Grade 3 65
Grade 4 73
Grade 5 74
Grade 6 70
Grade 7 60
Grade 8 69
Grade 9 66
Grade 10 67
Grade 11 62
Grade 12 63
Other Enrollment projected to continue to decline through 2020[3]
Color(s) Black and White
Athletics conference Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League
Budget $13,799,635 (2013-14)[4]

$13,709,119 (2012-13)[5]
$15,370,237 (2010-11)[6]
$15,447,000 (2009-10)[7]

Per pupil spending $13,230 (2008)
Per pupil spending $14,566.86 (2009)
Per pupil spending $16,317 (2011)
Website

Monessen City School District is a tiny, urban, public school district operating in southwestern Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. It serves the city of Monessen, Pennsylvania. The School District of the City of Monessen encompasses approximately 2 square miles (5.2 km2). According to 2000 federal census data, it serves a resident population of 8,670. In 2010, the population of the District had decline to 7,717 people.[8] In 2009, the District residents’ per capita income was $16,627, while the median family income was $37,269.[9] In the Commonwealth, the median family income was $49,501 [10] and the United States median family income was $49,445, in 2010.[11] By 2013, the median household income in the United States rose to $52,100.[12]

According to District officials, in school year 2007-08 the School District of the City of Monessen provided basic educational services to 972 pupils through the employment of 89 teachers, 57 full-time and part-time support personnel, and 5 administrators. School District of the City of Monessen received more than $7.9 million in state funding in school year 2007-08. According to school district administrative officials, during the 2003-04 school year, the district provided basic educational services to 1,096 pupils through the employment of 5 administrators, 87 teachers, and 40 full-time and part-time support personnel. Special education was provided by the district and the Westmoreland Intermediate Unit #7. Occupational training and adult education in various vocational and technical fields were provided by the district and the Mon Valley Career and Technology Center.

School District of the City of Monessen operates three schools: Monessen Elementary Center (K–5), Monessen Middle School (6–8) and Monessen City High School (9-12). The middle school and high school share a single building. The District uses the Westmoreland Intermediate Unit #7 for services to special education students and faculty training.

Governance[edit]

School District of the City of Monessen is governed by 9 individually elected board members (serve without compensation for a term of four years), the Pennsylvania State Board of Education, the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Pennsylvania General Assembly.[13] 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 " 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.[14]

Academic achievement[edit]

In July 2012, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) released a report identifying all three School District of the City of Monessen schools as among the lowest achieving schools for reading and mathematics in 2012. Monessen Elementary Center, Monessen Middle School and Monessen High School were all three among the 15% lowest achieving schools in the Commonwealth. Parents and students may be eligible for scholarships to transfer to another public or nonpublic school through the state's Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program passed in June 2012.[15] The scholarships are limited to those students whose family's income is less than $60,000 annually, with another $12,000 allowed per dependent. Maximum scholarship award is $8,500, with special education students receiving up to $15,000 for a year's tuition. Parents pay any difference between the scholarship amount and the receiving school's tuition rate. Students may seek admission to neighboring public school districts. Each year the PDE publishes the tuition rate for each individual public school district.[16] Fifty-three public schools in Allegheny County are among the lowest-achieving schools in 2011. According to the report, parents in 414 public schools (74 school districts) were offered access to these scholarships. For the 2013-14 school year, nine public school districts in Pennsylvania had all of their schools placed on the list including: Sto-Rox School District, Chester Upland School District, Clairton City School District, Duquesne City School District, Farrell Area School District, Wilkinsburg Borough School District, William Penn School District and Steelton-Highspire School District.[17] Funding for the scholarships comes from donations by businesses which receive a state tax credit for donating.

Statewide Academic Ranking

The School District of the City of Monessen declined precipitously to a ranking of 475th out of 498 Pennsylvania school districts by the Pittsburgh Business Times in 2013.[18] The ranking was based on student academic achievement as demonstrated on the last three years of the PSSAs for: reading, writing, math and science.[19] 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. Writing exams were given to children in 5th, 8th and 11th grades.

  • 2012 - 439th[20]
  • 2010 - 449th[21]
  • 2009 - 453rd
  • 2008 - 443rd
  • 2007 - 406th out of 501 school districts.[22]
Overachiever statewide ranking

In 2013, the Pittsburgh Business Times also reported an Overachievers Ranking for 498 Pennsylvania school districts. School District of the City of Monessen ranked 143rd. In 2012, the District was 91st. [23] 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."[24]

Western Pennsylvania local ranking

School District of the City of Monessen was ranked 97th out of 104 western Pennsylvania school districts, in 2013, by the Pittsburgh Business Times. The ranking was based on the last three years of student academic performance on the PSSAs on: math, reading, writing and science.[25] (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 & Midland Borough School District due to their not operating a high school. In 2012, the School District of the City of Monessen ranked 90th out of 104 local region school districts.

District AYP status history[edit]

In 2012, the School District of the City of Monessen declined to Warning Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) status, due to missing all the academic metrics measured in reading and mathematics.[26] In 2010 and 2011, School District of the City of Monessen 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.[27]

  • 2007-08 and 2008-09 - Warning status [28]
  • 2003 through 2006-07 - achieved AYP status

The School District of the City of Monessen's Monessen Elementary Center was cited in a state report regarding irregularities in the PSSA testing.[29] After an investigation, the District was required by the Pennsylvania Department of Education to develop a plan to remediate the issues involved.[30] Statewide 48 school districts or charter programs had suspicious results in the exams administered in 2009, 2010, or 2011.[31][32] The scandal calls into question much of the student academic growth touted by the Rendell Administration which conspicuously ignored the Data Recognition Corporation forensic erasure analysis.[33][34]

Graduation rate[edit]

In 2013, the District’s graduation rate was 91%. In 2012, the District’s graduation rate was 81%.[35] In 2011, the graduation rate was 73%.[36] In 2010, the Pennsylvania Department of Education issued a new, 4-year cohort graduation rate. Monessen City High School's rate was 69% for 2010.[37]

According to traditional graduation rate calculations

High School[edit]

Monessen Senior High School is located at 1245 State Road, Monessen. Per the PDE, the enrollment was 258 pupils in 2013, with 69% coming from low income homes. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2011, the school reported an enrollment of 276 pupils in grades 9th through 12th, with 151 pupils eligible for a federal free or reduced price lunch due to the family meeting the federal poverty level. The school is a federally designated Title I school. The school employed 26 teachers yielding a student-teacher ratio of 11:1.[42] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind.[43]

2013 School Performance Profile

Monessen Senior High School achieved 50.5 out of 100. Reflects on grade level reading, mathematics and science achievement. In reading/literature - 60.78% were on grade level. In Algebra 1, 52% showed on grade level skills. In Biology, 14.5% showed on grade level science understanding.[44] According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 2,181 public schools (less than 73 percent of Pennsylvania public schools), achieved an academic score of 70 or higher. Pennsylvania 11th grade students no longer take the PSSAs. Instead, they now take the Keystone Exams at the end of the associated course.

AYP History

In 2012, Monessen High School declined to Warning AYP status. In 2010 and 2011, Monessen High School achieved AYP status.[45] Effective with Spring 2013, the Pennsylvania Department of Education discontinued administering the PSSA's to 11th graders. In 2008 and 2009, Monnessen High School declined to Warning AYP status.

PSSA results

11th Grade Reading:

  • 2012 - 40% on grade level, (35% below basic). State - 67% of 11th graders are on grade level.[46]
  • 2011 - 62% (9% below basic). State - 69.1% [47]
  • 2010 - 72% (16% below basic). State - 66% [48]
  • 2009 - 59% (22% below basic). State - 65% [49]

11th Grade Math:

  • 2012 - 39% on grade level (44% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 59% of 11th graders are on grade level.[50]
  • 2011 - 59% (9% below basic). State - 60.3% [51]
  • 2010 - 80% (13% below basic). State - 59% [52]
  • 2009 - 67% (25% below basic). State - 56% [53]

11th Grade Science:

  • 2012 - 12% on grade level (42% below basic). State - 42% of 11th graders were on grade level.[54]
  • 2011 - 19% (23% below basic). State - 40% [55]
  • 2010 - 33% (21% below basic). State - 39%
  • 2009 - 22% (34% below basic). State - 40% [56]

College Remediation Rate[edit]

According to a Pennsylvania Department of Education study released in January 2009, 28% of the Monessen 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.[57] 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.[58] 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 Monessen 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.[59] Under the Pennsylvania Transfer and Articulation Agreement, many Pennsylvania colleges and universities accept these credits for students who transfer to their institutions.[60] Under state rules, other students that reside in the district, who attend a private school, a charter school or are homeschooled are eligible to participate in this program.[61] In 2010, Governor Edward Rendell eliminated the grants to students, from the Commonwealth, due to a state budget crisis.

For the 2009-10 funding year, the school district received a state grant of $740 for the program.[62]

Graduation requirements[edit]

Among Pennsylvania's 500 public school districts, graduation requirements widely vary. The School District of the City of Monessen School Board has determined that a pupil must take 33 courses to graduate, including: math 3 courses, English 4 courses, social studies courses, science 3 courses, Physical Education 4 courses, (Music, Art, Family & Consumer Sciences, Career and Technical Education - 4 courses) and electives 8 courses.

By law, all Pennsylvania secondary school students were required to 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.[63] 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.[64]

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.[65] The exam is given at the end of the course. Keystone Exams replace the PSSAs for 11th grade.[66]

Students have several opportunities to pass the exam. Those who do not pass after several attempts can perform a project in order to graduate.[67][68] 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.[69] 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.[70] 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 2013, School District of the City of Monessen School District students took the SAT exams. The District's Verbal Average Score was 419. The Math average score was 448. The Writing average score was 417. The College Board reported that statewide scores were: 494 in reading, 504 in math and 482 in writing. The nation-wide SAT results were the same as in 2012.[71]

In 2012, 48 School District of the City of Monessen School District students took the SAT exams. The District's Verbal Average Score was 411. The Math average score was 438. The Writing average score was 411. 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, 43 School District of the City of Monessen School District students took the SAT exams. The District's Verbal Average Score was 416. The Math average score was 451. The Writing average score was 375.[72] Pennsylvania ranked 40th among states with SAT scores: Verbal - 493, Math - 501, Writing - 479.[73] 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.[74]

AP Courses[edit]

In 2013, Monessen High School offered 1 Advanced Placement (AP) course at a higher cost than regular courses. Students have the option of taking College Board approved courses and then taking the College Board's examination in the Spring. Students, who achieve a 3 or better on the exam, may be awarded college credits at US universities and colleges. Each higher education institution sets its own standards about what level of credits are awarded to a student based on their AP exam score. Most higher education give credits for scores of 4 or 5. Some schools also give credits for scores of 3. High schools give credits towards graduation to students who take the school's AP class. At Monessen High School 25% of students who took its AP course earned a 3 or better on the exam.[75]

Challenge Program[edit]

The Challenge Program, Inc. offers twelve $200.00 cash incentives to Monessen Senior High School students who excel in the categories of: Academic Improvement, Attendance, Community Service and Academic Excellence. The program partners with businesses to motivate students both in and out of the classroom by encouraging good habits in students that will last throughout their education and into their future careers. For the 2010-2011 school year, the top 10% of students in each of the categories will be eligible to win $250.00.[76] Monessen High School’s financial partner is the Mon Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Middle School[edit]

Monessen Middle School is located at 1245 State Road, Monessen. In 2013, the school's enrollment was 199 pupils, with 69% of students from low income homes. The school is a federally designated Title I school. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2011, the Monessen Middle School reported an enrollment of 199 pupils in grades 6th through 8th, with 125 pupils receiving a federal free or reduced price lunch due to family poverty. The school employed 18 teachers yielding a student-teacher ratio of 11:1.[77] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of its teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind.[78]

2013 School Performance Profile

Monessen Middle School achieved 65.6 out of 100. Reflects on grade level reading, writing, mathematics and science achievement. In reading, 54% of the students were on grade level. In Mathematics, 53% of the students showed on grade level skills. In Science, 60% of the 8th graders demonstrated on grade level understanding. In writing, 53% of the 8th grade students were on grade level.[79]

AYP History

In 2012, Monessen Middle School declined to Warning AYP history status, by missing all but 1 academic metric measured.[80] In 2010 and 2011, Monessen Middle School achieved AYP status.[81]

PSSA Results:

8th Grade Science:

  • 2012 - 47% on grade level (35% below basic). State - 59%
  • 2011 - 68% (20% below basic). State – 58.3%
  • 2010 - 47% (29% below basic). State – 57% [88]
  • 2009 - 42% (33% below basic). State - 55% [89]

Monessen Elementary Center[edit]

Monessen Elementary Center is located at 1275 Rostraver Street, Monessen. In 2013, the school's enrollment was 418 pupils with 72% of pupils receiving a federal free or reduced price meals due to family poverty. According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of the teachers were rated highly qualified under No Child Left Behind. The school provides full day kindergarten.[90]

Monessen Elementary Center is a federally designated Title I school. In 2011, Monessen Elementary Center had 438 pupils. The school employed 37 teachers yielding a student-teacher ratio of 12:1.[91] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of its teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.[92] The school provided full day kindergarten to all its pupils.[93]

Since 2008 school year, the District has operated a full-day kindergarten.[94] While proponents of full day kindergarten claim it will reduce special education numbers and it will raise primary student academic achievement especially in reading and math, those outcomes have not been realized in the School District of the City of Monessen. Reading achievement in particular has significantly declined.[95]

2013 School Performance Profile

Monessen Elementary Center achieved a score of 60.2 out of 100. The score reflects on grade level: reading, science, writing and mathematics achievement. In 2012-13, only 52.9% of the students were reading on grade level in grades 3rd through 5th. In 3rd grade, 62% of the pupils were reading on grade level. In math, 60% were on grade level (3rd-5th grades). In 4th grade science, just 67% of the pupils demonstrated on grade level understanding. In writing only 36% of 5th grade pupils demonstrated on grade level skills.[96]

AYP History

In 2012, Monessen Elementary Center declined to School Improvement status due to missing all academic metrics measured in reading and mathematics. In 2011, Monessen Elementary Center declined to Warning AYP status due to missing 6 out of 10 academic metrics measured.[97]

4th Grade Science
  • 2012 - 70%, (11% below basic). State - 82%
  • 2011 - 69%, (10% below basic). State - 82.9%
  • 2010 - 62%, (16% below basic). State - 81%
  • 2009 - 85%, (3% below basic). State - 83%

Enrollment[edit]

According to Pennsylvania Department of Education enrollment reports, there are were 1,041 students enrolled in K-12 in 2005–06 school year at the School District of the City of Monessen. There were 76 students in the Class of 2006. The district's class of 2010 had 942 students. Enrollment declined to 875 students by 2013.[102] In 2008, the district administrative costs were $1,023.60 per pupil ranking 57th for administrative costs. The lowest administrative cost per pupil in Pennsylvania was $398 per pupil.[103] A study of Pennsylvania public school spending, conducted by Standard and Poor's, examined the consolidation of small school districts with a neighboring school district. The study found that consolidation of the administration with an adjacent school district would achieve substantial administrative cost savings which varied by district.[104]

According to a 2009 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.[105] 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.[106] In March 2011, the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants Fiscal Responsibility Task Force released a report which found that consolidating school district administrations with one neighboring district would save the Commonwealth $1.2 billion without forcing the consolidation of any schools.[107]

Pennsylvania’s birth rate has been declining for two decades. According to data from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, in 1990, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s birth rate was 171,053.[108] In 2000, Pennsylvania’s birth rate was 145,874.[109] Finally in 2011, the State’s birth rate declined further to 142,021.[110] From 2000 to 2009, the number of babies born in rural counties declined 5 percent.[111] Urban counties have also experienced a decline in the number of school aged children. From 2000-2010 urban Pennsylvania counties had a 3 percent decline in the number of residents under 18 years old. In 2010, there were 2.07 million residents, or 22 percent of the urban population, who were under age 18.[112]

The Commonwealth of 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. This results in excessive school administration bureaucracy and not enough course diversity.[113] In a survey of 88 superintendents of small districts, 42% of the 49 respondents stated that they thought consolidation would save money without closing any schools.[114]

Special education[edit]

In December 2012, the Monessen City School District administration reported that 145 pupils or 16% of the district's pupils received Special Education services, with 55.9% of the identified students having a specific learning disability.[115] In December 2008, the District administration reported that 153 pupils or 15% of the district's pupils received Special Education services, with 55.6% of the identified students having a specific learning disability.[116] 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.[117] 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, the Monessen City School District engages in identification procedures to ensure that eligible students receive an appropriate educational program consisting of special education and related services, individualized to meet student needs. At no cost to the parents, these services are provided in compliance with state and federal law; and are reasonably calculated to yield meaningful educational benefit and student progress .[118] 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.[119][120] The IDEA 2004 requires each school entity to publish a notice to parents, in newspapers or other media, including the student handbook and website regarding the availability of screening and intervention services and how to access them.

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.[121] 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.[122] 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.[123] 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.[124] In 2012, the Obama Administration's US Department of Education issued a directive that schools include students with disabilities in extracurricular activities, including sports.[125]

The School District of the City of Monessen received a $645,867 supplement for special education services in 2010.[126] 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.[127][128] Additionally, the state provides supplemental funding for extraordinarily impacted students. The District must apply for this added funding.

Gifted education[edit]

The School District of the City of Monessen Administration reported that 18 or 1.9% 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.[129] By law, the 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.[130][131]

Wellness policy[edit]

Monessen City School District School Board established a district wellness policy in 2006.[132] The Wellness 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. Monessen Elementary Center restricts the kinds of snacks children may bring to school as well as items severed in school special events. The district's Wellness 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.[133] In the fall of 2013, the District changed the elementary school's focus to wellness, rather than to physical fitness.[134]

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, 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.[135] The Pennsylvania Department of Education required the district to submit a copy of the policy for approval.

The District offers a free school breakfast and free or reduced-price lunch to children in low income families. All students attending the school can eat breakfast and lunch. Children from families with incomes at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty level are provided a breakfast and lunch at no cost to the family. Children from families with incomes between 130 and 185 percent of the federal poverty level can be charged no more than 30 cents per breakfast. A foster child whose care and placement is the responsibility of the State or who is placed by a court with a caretaker household is eligible for both a free breakfast and a free lunch. Runaway, homeless and Migrant Youth are also automatically eligible for free meals.[136] The meals are partially funded with federal dollars through the United States Department of Agriculture.[137]

In 2013, the USDA issued new restrictions to foods in public schools. The rules apply to foods and beverages sold on all public school district campuses during the day. They limit vending machine snacks to a maximum of 200 calories per item. Additionally, all snack foods sold at school must meet competitive nutrient standards, meaning they must have fruits, vegetables, dairy or protein in them or contain at least 10 percent of the daily value of fiber, calcium, potassium, and Vitamin D.[138] In order to comply with the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 all US public school districts are required to raise the price of their school lunches to $2.60 regardless of the actual cost of providing the lunch.[139]

School District of the City of Monessen provides health services as mandated by the Commonwealth and the federal government. Nurses are available in each building to conduct annual health screenings (data reported to the PDE and state Department of Health) and to dispense prescribed medications to students during the school day. Students can be excluded from school unless they comply with all the State Department of Health’s extensive immunization mandates. School nurses monitor each pupil for this compliance.[140] Nurses also monitor each child's weight.

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.[141]

In 2012, the average teacher salary in Monessen City School District was $54,207 a year, while the cost of the benefits teachers received was $22,632 per employee, for a total annual average teacher compensation of $76,840.[142] In 2012, the District employed 91 teachers and administrators, with the top salary at $110,500.[143] Superintendents and administrators receive a benefit package commensurate with that offered to the district's teachers' union.[144]

In 2009, Monessen City School District employed 96 teachers and administrators. The average salary was $53,832, with the highest salary $104,500 to Superintendent Cynthia Chelen. The teacher’s work day is 7 hours 30 minutes with a duty-free lunch period and a daily prep period included. When teachers work after regular school hours they are paid at $30 per hour. Teachers work 188 days in the contract year. Additionally, the teachers receive a defined benefit pension, health insurance, professional development reimbursement, 3 paid personal days, 10 paid sick days and another 10 days at half pay, 4 paid bereavement days, as well as many other benefits.[145]

The School District of the City of Monessen administrative costs per pupil in 2008 was $1,023.60 per pupil. The District ranked 57th out of 500 public school districts in Pennsylvania for spending on administration. The lowest administrative cost per pupil in Pennsylvania was $398 per pupil.[146] In 2011, the Districts spent $1,446,000 on District administration.[147] In December 2013, then superintendent Linda Marcolini unexpectedly announced her departure despite having a contract from Jan 1, 2012 - Jan 1, 2017. Marcolini chafed under board supervision according to her three page letter of resignation. She cited conflicts with the Board over changes she had implemented as one reason she left.[148]

Per pupil spending In 2008, the School District administration reported that per pupil spending was $13,230 which ranked 160th among Pennsylvania's then 501 public school districts. In 2010, the District’s per pupil spending had increased to $16,282, which ranked 74th in the Commonwealth.[149] In 2011, Pennsylvania’s per pupil spending was $13,467, ranking 6th in the United States.[150] In 2007, the Pennsylvania per pupil total expenditures was reported as $12,759.[151]

Reserves In 2008, the School District of the City of Monessen reported a balance of $1,374,282.00, in its unreserved-designated fund. The unreserved-undesignated fund balance was reported as zero. [152] In 2013, the School District Administration reported a deficit of -$391,819 in the unreserved-undesignated fund balance. 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.[153] In 2005, the total reserve funds held by Pennsylvania public school districts was $1.9 billion.[154] By 2013, reserves held by Pennsylvania public school districts, as a whole, had increased to over $3.8 billion.[155]

Audits In October 2011, the Pennsylvania Auditor General conducted a performance audit of the School District of the City of Monessen. The findings were reported to both the School Board and the District’s administration.[156] A previous (2010) audit found multiple issues which were reported to both the Board and the State Authorities for review.[157]

Tuition 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 the School District of the City of Monessen. 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 - $10,109.75, High School - $11,837.19.[158]

Bond Debt In 2012, the Board refinanced several bond debts $1,575,000 General Obligation Notes, REFUNDING SERIES A OF 2012 and $1,790,000 General Obligation Bonds, Refunding SERIES B OF 2012.[159]

The School District of the City of Monessen is funded by a combination of: a local earned income tax 0.5%,[160] a property tax, a real estate transfer tax 0.5%, a local services tax $5, coupled with substantial funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the federal government.[161] Grants can provide an opportunity to supplement school funding without raising local taxes. 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.[162] The average Pennsylvania public school teacher pension in 2011 exceeds $60,000 a year plus they receive federal Social Security benefits: both are free of Pennsylvania state income tax and local income tax which funds local public schools.[163]

State basic education funding[edit]

For the 2013-14 school year, the School District of the City of Monessen received a 1.4% increase or $5,933,123 in Pennsylvania Basic Education Funding. This is $80,441 more than its 2012-13 state BEF to the District. Additionally, the School District of the City of Monessen received $88,891 in Accountability Block Grant funding to focus on academic achievement and level funding for special education services. Among the public school districts in Westmoreland County, Franklin Regional School District received the highest percentage increase in BEF at 2.6%. 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.[164] 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.[165]

For the 2012-13 school year, the School District of the City of Monessen received $5,852,682.[166] 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. The School District of the City of Monessen received $88,891 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.[167] 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 School District of the City of Monessen received a 6.66% increase for a $5,852,682 allocation, of state Basic Education Funding.[168][169] Additionally, the School District of the City of Monessen received $88,891 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.[170] 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.[171] In 2010, the district reported that 694 students received free or reduced price lunches, due to the family meeting the federal poverty level.[172]

In the 2010-11 budget year, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provided a 2.38% increase in Basic Education Funding for a total of $6,189,796. Among the districts in Westmoreland County, the highest increase went to Yough School District which got a 7.40% 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.[173] 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.[174]

In the 2009-10 budget year, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provided a 3.3% increase in Basic Education Funding for a total of $6,046,014. Among the districts in Westmoreland County, the highest increase went to Southmoreland School District which got a 6.44%. Ninety (90) Pennsylvania public 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.[175] 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.[176]

The state Basic Education Funding to the District in 2008-09 was $5,852,681.61. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 659 district students received free or reduced- price lunches due to low family income in the 2007–2008 school year.[177] 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.[178][179]

Accountability Block Grants[edit]

Beginning in 2004-2005, the state launched the Accountability Block Grant school funding. This program has provided $1.5 billion to Pennsylvania’s school districts. The Accountability Block Grant program requires that its taxpayer dollars are focused on specific interventions that are most likely to increase student academic achievement. These interventions include: teacher training, All Day Kindergarten, lower class size K-3rd grade, literacy and math coaching programs that provide teachers with individualized job-embedded professional development to improve their instruction, before or after school tutoring assistance to struggling students. For 2010-11, the School District of the City of Monessen applied for and received $241,272 in addition to all other state and federal funding. The District used the funding to provide Full Day kindergarten, to increase instructional time and to reduce class size K-3rd grade.[180][181] In 2009, 100% of the kindergarteners in the School District attended full-day kindergarten.[182]

PreK Counts grant[edit]

The School District of the City of Monesses receives state funding to provide taxpayer funded preschool at the elementary school. For 2013-14, the District received $314,400 for PreK Counts classrooms. For the 2011-12 school year, Monessen received a Pre K Counts grant of $316,000.[183] For the 2011 school year, Monessen City School District was a high priority for funding due to the 63% poverty level of children in the district's attendance area.[184][185][186] Enrollment for Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts is targeted to children living in families earning up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level. In 2009-10, the District received $294,400 in PreK Counts funding for a preschool class of 49 children.

Pennsylvania's Pre-K Counts is designed to offer a high quality pre-kindergarten learning experience to more 3 and 4 year-olds in Pennsylvania. According to advocates, the purpose of PA Pre-K Counts, enacted into law by Act 45 of 2007 amending the Public School Code of 1949, was to expand the number of children who have the opportunity to experience a pre-K program of high quality. The high standards for the program are intended to ensure a high return on the investment made in preparing young children for school and to help close the achievement gap between groups of students in the K-12 educational system. In 2013, the state’s PreK Counts program received $87,284,000. In 2010, the PreK Counts program received $83.6 million statewide in Governor Corbett’s education budget. In 2007-08 the state funded Pre-K Counts at $75 million. In addition to PreK Counts, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania also supplements the federal Head Start preschool program with an additional funding on an annual basis. The program is available to low income children residing within the District through private providers. In 2013, Pennsylvania contributed $39,178,000 to Head Start. In 2010, Head Start received $37.6 million in Pennsylvania state education dollars. Since 2003, Pennsylvania has more than doubled the number of preschoolers in publicly funded pre-kindergarten through a mulipronged system including: school-based pre-kindergarten, Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts through private providers, Early Intervention, Head Start and Head Start Supplemental, and the school district’s use of Accountability Block Grants. Over 100,000 Pennsylvania preschoolers participate in state taxpayer funded pre-kindergarten programs, annually.

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 to 2009. The School District of the City of Monessen applied, but was denied funding by the Rendell administration, in 2006-07. In 2007-08, the District received $136,328. The District received $45,413 in 2008-09 for a total funding of $181,741.[187] Among the public school districts in County the highest award was given to Franklin Regional School District which received $449,073. 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.

Other grants[edit]

The School District of the City of Monessen did not participate in: Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's Environmental Education annual grants, PA Science Its Elementary grants (discontinued effective with 2009-10 budget by Governor Rendell), Education Assistance Grants, 2012 Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy grant, 2012 and 2013 nor Pennsylvania Hybrid Learning Grants,[188] nor the federal 21st Century Learning grants.

Federal Stimulus grant[edit]

The School District of the City of Monessen received an extra $2,181,073 in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) - Federal Stimulus money to be used in specific programs like special education and meeting the academic needs of low-income students.[189][190] The funding was limited to the 2009-10 and 2010-2011 school years.[191] 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]

The School District of the City of Monessen officials applied for the federal Race to the Top grant which would have provided up to $600,000 in additional federal funding, to improve student academic achievement.[192] 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.[193] 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.[194][195][196]

STEAM grant[edit]

In 2013, School District of the City of Monessen did not apply for a grant from the Claude Worthington Benedum and Grable Foundations. The STEAM funds are to be used to support science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics programs. The curriculum is to involve students in kindergarten through fifth grade.[197] School administration were required to apply for the grants. Recipients include 24 schools located in: Allegheny County, Beaver County, Butler County, Fayette County, Greene County, Lawrence County, Mercer County, Washington County and Westmoreland County.[198]

Common Cents state initiative[edit]

The School Board elected to not participate in the Pennsylvania Department of Education Common Cents program.[199] 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.[200] 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 68.0000 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.[201] Property taxes, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, apply only to real estate - land and buildings. The property tax is not levied on cars, business inventory, or other personal property. Certain types of property are exempt from property taxes, including: places of worship, places of burial, private social clubs, charitable and educational institutions and all government property (local, state and federal). Additionally, service related, disabled US military veterans may seek an exemption from paying property taxes. Pennsylvania 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.[202] When a Pennsylvania public 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.[203] 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.[204]

The average yearly property tax paid by Westmoreland County residents amounts to about 3.31% of their yearly income. Westmoreland County ranked 451st out of the 3143 United States counties for property taxes as a percentage of median income.[213] 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.[214] 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%).[215]

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 permitted to raise property taxes above their annual Act 1 Index unless they either: allow Districts voters to approve the increase through a 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 of 2006 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.[216]

In June 2011, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed legislation eliminating six of the exceptions to the Act 1 Index.[217] 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.[218][219] 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.[220]

The School District Adjusted Index history for the School District of the City of Monessen:

For the 2013-14 budget year, the School Board of the City of Monessen 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.[225]

For the 2012-13 budget year, the School Board of the City of Monessen 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.[226]

For the 2011-12 school year, the School Board of the City of Monessen did not apply for an exception to exceed the Act 1 Index. Each year, the 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.

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.[227]

The School Board also did not apply for any exceptions to exceed the Act 1 index for the budget in 2010-11.[228]

Property tax relief[edit]

In 2013, the School District of the City of Monessen approved 2,306 homestead properties received $229.[229] 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. The amount of property tax relief each Pennsylvania public school district receives is announced by the PDE in May of each year. The amount of tax relief is dependent on the total tax revenue collected on the casino slots in the previous year. Thirty five percent of the slots tax revenues are used for property tax relief. In Westmoreland County, the highest tax relief went to New Kensington-Arnold School District which was set at $305.[230] The highest property tax relief provided, among Pennsylvania public school districts, goes to the homesteads of Chester Upland School District in Delaware County which received $632 per approved homestead in 2010. Chester-Upland School District has consistently been the top recipient since the programs inception.[231] In Westmoreland County, 62% of eligible property owners applied for property tax relief in 2009.[232]

In Pennsylvania, the homestead exclusion reduces the assessed values of homestead properties, reducing the property tax on these homes. The homestead exclusion allows homeowners real property tax relief of up to one half of the median assessed value of homesteads in the taxing jurisdiction (county, school district, city, borough, or township).[233]

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 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, the Pennsylvania Secretary of the Treasury reported issuing more than half a million property tax rebates totaling $238 million.[234] The Property tax/rent rebate program is funded by revenues from the Pennsylvania Lottery. In 2012, these property tax rebates were 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.[235]

Extracurriculars[edit]

The District offers a wide variety of clubs, activities and an extensive, costly sports program. Eligibility for participation is determined by school board policy and in compliance with standards set by the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA). In 2012, Monessen student athletes were arrested after guns and drugs were found in the locker room of the football stadium.[236]

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.[237]

Sports[edit]

The District funds:

Varsity
Middle School Sports

According to PIAA directory July 2013 [238]

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