Panther Valley School District

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Panther Valley School District
Map of Carbon County Pennsylvania School Districts.png
Working together as a community to inspire each individual to achieve success through lifelong learning.
Address
1 Panther Way
Lansford, Pennsylvania
Carbon County and Schuylkill County, United States
Information
Type Public
Established 1964
Closed Middle School on Bertsch Street 2008
Superintendent Rosemary Porembo, M. Ed.
Grades K–12
Number of students 1747 pupils (2009-10)[1]
Kindergarten 172
Grade 1 142
Grade 2 123
Grade 3 132
Grade 4 129
Grade 5 145
Grade 6 179
Grade 7 142
Grade 8 126
Grade 9 134
Grade 10 108
Grade 11 109
Grade 12 106
Other Enrollment projected to be 1960 in 2019[2]
Color(s) Black, Gold, and White
Tuition for nonresident and charter school students ES - $7,917.62, HS - $8,779.98[3]
Per Pupil Spending $12,136 (2008)
Per Pupil Spending $11,592.15 (2010)
Website
A map showing the portion of Panther Valley School District in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania.

Panther Valley School District is a midsized, suburban public school district which is split across two counties in Pennsylvania. Panther Valley School District encompasses approximately 40 square miles (100 km2). Panther Valley School District serves students who reside in boroughs of Coaldale in Schuylkill County, Lansford, Nesquehoning, and Summit Hill in Carbon County. According to 2000 federal census data, the District serves a resident population of 12,516. In 2009, the district residents’ per capita income was $16,533 while the median family income was $39,133.[4] In the Commonwealth, the median family income was $49,501[5] and the United States median family income was $49,445, in 2010.[6]

According to Panther Valley School District officials, in school year 2009-10, PVSD provided basic educational services to 1,725 pupils. The Panther Valley School District employed: 126 teachers, 84 full-time and part-time support personnel, and 9 administrators. Panther Valley School District received more than $10.8 million in state funding in school year 2009-10.

The District operates three schools: Panther Valley High School, Panther Valley Middle School and Panther Valley Elementary School.

Governance[edit]

Panther Valley School District is governed by 9 individually elected board members (serve four-year terms), the Pennsylvania State Board of Education, the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Pennsylvania General Assembly.[7] 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 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.[8]

Teacher evaluation study[edit]

In 2011, the district agreed to participate in a pilot program to develop a new way to evaluate teachers that, in part, takes into account student achievement. Several York County school districts are participating.[9] The pilot program had 104 K-12 entities, including: nine career and technical centers, nine charter schools and nine intermediate units. Beginning in January 2012, participating school districts will use the new evaluation method and provide feedback to the Department of Education. This new evaluation will not be used to determine an educator’s official 2011-12 assessment. Under the new evaluation system, 50% of the evaluation of a teacher will be based on an observation divided into four categories: planning and preparation, classroom environment, instruction, and professional responsibilities. The other half will be based on student achievement (15 percent will be building-level data, 15 percent will be teacher-specific data, and 20 percent will be elective). The new evaluation system has both announced and unannounced observations. There are meetings between the teacher and evaluator before and after the direct observation of a lesson.[10]

Academic achievement[edit]

Panther Valley School District was ranked 467th out of 498 Pennsylvania school districts by the Pittsburgh Business Times in 2012.[11] The ranking was based on student academic achievement as demonstrated on the last three years of the PSSAs for: reading, writing math and science.[12] The PSSAs are given to all children in grades 3rd through 8th and the 11th grade in high school. Adapted examinations are given to children in the special education programs.

  • 2011 - 472nd[13]
  • 2010 - 478th[14]
  • 2009 - 477th
  • 2008 - 478th
  • 2007 - 478th out of 501 school districts.[15]
Overachiever statewide ranking

In 2012, the Pittsburgh Business Times also reported an Overachievers Ranking for 498 Pennsylvania school districts. Panther Valley School District ranked 191st. In 2011, the district was 447th.[16] 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."[17]

District AYP status history

In 2011, Panther Valley School District declined to Warning status due to low student achievement.[18] In 2010, the District achieved Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). In 2011, 94 percent of the 500 Pennsylvania public school districts achieved the No Child Left Behind Act progress level of 72% of students reading on grade level and 67% of students demonstrating on grade level math. In 2011, 46.9 percent of Pennsylvania school districts achieved Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) based on student performance. An additional 37.8 percent of 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.[19][20]

  • 2010 - AYP status
  • 2009 - AYP status
  • 2008 - AYP status
  • 2007 - Warning status
  • 2006 - AYP status
  • 2005 - AYP status
  • 2004 - AYP status
  • 2003 - Warning Status

Lowest achievement list[edit]

In July 2012, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) released a report identifying 2 Panther Valley School District schools as among the lowest-achieving schools for reading and mathematics in 2011. Both Panther Valley Middle School and Panther Valley High School are 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.[21] 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.[22] 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 2012-13 school year, eight 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.[23] Funding for the scholarships comes from donations by businesses which receive a state tax credit for donating.

Graduation rate[edit]

In 2011, the graduation rate at Panther Valley School District was 85%.[24] In 2010, the Pennsylvania Department of Education issued a new, 4-year cohort graduation rate. Panther Valley Senior High School's rate was 75.97% for 2010.[25]

According to traditional graduation rate calculations

High school[edit]

Panther Valley High School is located at 912 Coal Region Way, Lansford. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the school reported an enrollment of 488 pupils in grades 9th through 12th, with 219 pupils eligible for a federal free lunch. Panther Valley High School is a Title I school. The school employed 33 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 14:1.[30] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 10 teachers were rated "Non‐Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind.[31]

In 2011, Panther Valley High School declined to Corrective Action II 1st Year status due to achieving one of 6 academic metrics under the No Child Left Behind Act. Academic achievement remains below state standards in both reading and mathematics.[32] Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, the school administration was again required to notify parents of the school's poor achievement outcomes and to offer the opportunity to transfer to a successful school within the District. The District operates a single high school. Additionally, the school administration was required by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, to develop a School Improvement Plan to address the school's low student achievement. Under the Pennsylvania Accountability System, the school must pay fro additional tutoring for struggling students.[33] In 2010, Panther Valley High School was in Making Progress: in Corrective Action I status. The school administration was required to notify parents of the school's poor achievement outcomes and to offer the opportunity to transfer to a successful school within the District.[34] In 2009, the school declined to Corrective Action I status under No Child Left Behind.[35]

PSSA Results

11th Grade Reading

  • 2011 - 60% on grade level, (28% below basic). State - 69.1% of 11th graders are on grade level.[36]
  • 2010 - 64% (17% below basic). State - 66%[37]
  • 2009 - 53% (25% below basic). State - 65%[38]
  • 2008 - 46% (31% below basic). State - 65%[39]
  • 2007 - 43% (32% below basic). State - 65%[40]

11th Grade Math:

  • 2011 - 47% on grade level (37% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 60.3% of 11th graders are on grade level.[41]
  • 2010 - 51% (37% below basic). State - 59%[42]
  • 2009 - 39% (33% below basic). State - 56%.[43]
  • 2008 - 30% (45% below basic). State - 56%[44]
  • 2007 - 26% (56% below basic). State - 53%[45]

11th Grade Science:

  • 2011 - 19% on grade level (29% below basic). State - 40% of 11th graders were on grade level.[46]
  • 2010 - 25% (18% below basic). State - 39%
  • 2009 - 19% (17% below basic). State - 40%[47]
  • 2008 - 14% (26% below basic). State - 39%[48]

College remediation rate[edit]

According to a Pennsylvania Department of Education study released in January 2009, 36% of the Panther Valley 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.[49] 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.[50] 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.

SAT scores[edit]

From January to June 2011, 47 Panther Valley students took the SAT exams. The district's Verbal Average Score was 474. The Math average score was 461. The Writing average score was 448.[51] Pennsylvania ranked 40th among states with SAT scores: Verbal - 493, Math - 501, Writing - 479.[52] 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.[53]

Dual enrollment[edit]

Panther Valley 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.[54] Under the Pennsylvania Transfer and Articulation Agreement, many Pennsylvania colleges and universities accept these credits for students who transfer to their institutions.[55] For the 2009-10 funding year, the school district received a state grant of $8,595 for the program.[56]

Graduation requirements[edit]

Panther Valley School Board has determined that a pupil must earn 26 credits to graduate, including: a required class every year in: math 4 credits, English 4 credits, Social Studies 3 credits, Science 3 credits, Physical Education 1 credit, Health .5 credit, Economics .5 credits, Personal Finance .5 credit, Computer Science 1 credit, Word .5 credit and electives.[57]

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.[58] At Panther Valley School District a student's project must demonstrate service to the community or demonstrate participation in career development and must be completed by March 1 of the senior year in order to receive a diploma.

By Pennsylvania School Board regulations, for the graduating class of 2017, students must demonstrate successful completion of secondary level course work in Algebra I, Biology, English Composition, and Literature for which the Keystone Exams serve as the final course exams. Students’ Keystone Exam scores shall count for at least one-third of the final course grade.[59][60][61] 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.[62] Individual student, school or district reports were not made public, although they were reported to district officials by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Middle school[edit]

Panther Valley Middle School is located at 678 Panther Pride Drive, Lansford. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the school reported an enrollment of 355 pupils in grades 6th through 8th, with 198 pupils receiving a federal free lunch due to family poverty. The school employed 26 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 3:1.[63] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 7 teachers were rated "Non‐Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind.[64]

In 2011, Panther Valley Middle School declined to Warning status due to lagging achievement in reading and math. The school midded 6 or 8 metrics under No Child Left Behind.[65] In 2010, the school achieved AYP status.

PSSA Results:

8th Grade Science:

  • 2011 - 57% on grade level (18% below basic). State – 58.3% of 8th graders were on grade level.
  • 2010 - 47% (31% below basic). State – 57%
  • 2009 - 51% (23% below basic). State - 55%
  • 2008 - 45% (25% below basic). State - 52%
  • 2007 - tested, but results not made public.

Elementary school[edit]

Panther Valley Elementary School (PVES) is located at 1 North Mermon Avenue, Nesquehoning. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the school reported an enrollment of 818 pupils in grades kindergarten through 5th, with 459 pupils receiving a federal free lunch due to family poverty. The school is a Title I school. The PVES employed 55 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 14:1.[70] The student attendance rate was 93% in both 2010 and 2011.

In 2011, Panther Valley Elementary School declined to School Improvement II status due to lagging student achievement in reading.[71]

  • 2010 - Making Progress: in School Improvement I
  • 2009 - School Improvement level I
4th Grade Science
  • 2011 - 78% (7% below basic). State - 82.9%
  • 2010 - 84% (7% below basic). State - 81%
  • 2009 - 78% (8% below basic). State - 83%
  • 2008 - 74% (7% below basic). State - 81%

Special education[edit]

In December 2010, the district administration reported that 321 pupils or 17.8% of the district's pupils received Special Education services, with 63.9% of identified students having a specific learning disability. In 2009, the District reported that 300 or 17% of its students received Special Education services.[77]

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.[78] 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.[79] The state requires each district to have a three-year special education plan to meet the unique needs of its special education students.[80] Overidentification of students, in order to increase state funding, has been an issue in the Commonwealth. Some districts have more than 20% of its students receiving special education services while others have 10% supported through special education.[81]

Panther Valley School District received a $904,113 supplement for special education services in 2010.[82] For the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school year, all Pennsylvania public school districts received the same level of funding for special education that they received in 2010-11. This level funding is provided regardless of changes in the number of pupils who need special education services and regardless of the level of services the respective students required.[83][84]

Gifted education[edit]

The District Administration reported that fewer than 10 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.[85] 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.[86][87]

Spending and Testing Results[edit]

Panther Valley suffers from a combination of moderate to high school taxes and among the lowest test results for rural school districts in comparison to other districts in Carbon and Schuylkill Counties and statewide.

In 2008-2009, 64% of 11th grade students at Panther Valley were proficient or advanced in reading as measured by the state standardized testing, PSSA, (state-wide 68% of students were proficient or advanced). 52.9% of Panther Valley 11th graders were proficient or advanced in math, (state-wide 61.2%). For the 2008-2009 school year, Panther Valley spent $43,345 per student meeting PSSA reading targets (state average: $37,629;) and $45,675 per student meeting PSSA math targets (state average: $36,396.)

Property Taxes on a $100,000 house:

Area Taxes
Panther Valley $2,730
Lehighton $2,220
Palmerton $1,990
Weatherly $1,930
Jim Thorpe $1,710
Tamaqua $1,660

Budget[edit]

In 2011, the average teacher salary in Panther Valley School District was $45,766.28 a year, while the cost of the benefits teachers receive was $16,522.69 per employee, for a total annual average teacher compensation of $62,288.97.[88] According to a study conducted at the American Enterprise Institute, in 2011, public school teachers’ total compensation is roughly 50 percent higher than they would likely receive in the private sector. The study found that the most generous benefits that teachers receive are not accounted for in many studies of compensation, including: pension, retiree health benefits and job security.[89]

In 2009, the district reported employing 152 teachers and administrators with a median salary of $46,258 and a top salary of $100,000.[90] The teacher’s work day is 7 hours and 15 minutes, with 186 days in the contract year. Additionally, the teachers receive a defined benefit pension, health insurance, professional development reimbursement, an Income Protection plan, 2 paid personal days, 10 paid sick days, severance pay on retirement, a Prescription Drug plan, and other benefits. The Board gives the Union six paid days to attend union meetings.[91] 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.[92]

Panther Valley School District administrative costs per pupil in 2008 was $676.57 per pupil. The lowest administrative cost per pupil in Pennsylvania was $398 per pupil.[93] The Pennsylvania School Boards Association collects and maintains 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.[94]

In 2008 the district administration reported that per pupil spending was $12,136 which ranked 220th among Pennsylvania's 501 school districts. In 2010 the per pupil spending had decreased to $11,592.15[95] Among the states, Pennsylvania’s total per pupil revenue (including all sources) ranked 11th at $15,023 per student, in 2008-09.[96] In 2007, the Pennsylvania per pupil total expenditures was $12,759.[97] The U.S. Census Bureau reports that Pennsylvania spent $8,191 per pupil in school year year 2000-01.[98]

Reserves In 2008, the district reported a balance of $122,189 in an unreserved-designated fund. The unreserved-undesignated fund balance was reported as zero. [99] In 2010, Panther Valley Administration reported an increase to $4,185,960 in the unreserved-undesignated fund balance. Pennsylvania school district reserve funds are divided into two categories – designated and undesignated. The undesignated funds are not committed to any planned project. Designated funds and any other funds, such as capital reserves, are allocated to specific projects. School districts are required by state law to keep 5 percent of their annual spending in the undesignated reserve funds to preserve bond ratings. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, from 2003 to 2010, as a whole, Pennsylvania school districts amassed nearly $3 billion in reserved funds.[100]

In January 2012, the Pennsylvania Auditor General conducted a performance audit of the District. Several significant findings were reported to the School Board and the District’s administration.[101]

In 2000, a local judge ruled that Miners Memorial Medical Center was property tax exempt. The school board had appealed due to the significant loss of tax revenue to the District. The hospital executives said they would consider payments in lieu of taxes. While the hospital reports an annual profit it claims it is a charity. The hospital paid the District $33,000 in lieu of its 1997 property tax.[102]

The district is funded by a combination of: a local earned income tax 1.0%, a property tax, a real estate transfer tax 0.5%, coupled with substantial funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the federal government.[103] 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.[104]

State basic education funding[edit]

For the 2012-13 school year, the district will receive $7,647,254.[105] The Governor's Executive Budget for 2012-2013 includes $9.34 billion for kindergarten through 12th grade public education, including $5.4 billion in basic education funding, which is an increase of $49 million over the 2011-12 budget. The state also provides $100 million for the Accountability Block grant. The state will also provide $544.4 million for School Employees’ Social Security and $856 million for School Employees’ Retirement fund called PSERS.[106] This amount is 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 district received a $7,531,195 allocation, of state Basic Education Funding.[107][108] Additionally, the School District received $115,620 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.[109] The highest increase in state basic education funding was awarded to Duquesne City School District, which got a 49% increase in state funding for 2011-12.[110]

In the 2010-2011 budget year, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provided a 6.05% increase in Basic Education Funding for a total of $8,381,543. Among the districts in County, the highest increase went to Jim Thorpe Area School District which got an 11.05% 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.[111] 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 where enrollment had significantly declined. The amount of increase each school district received was set by Governor Edward Rendell and then Secretary of Education Gerald Zahorchak, as a part of the state budget proposal given each February. This was the second year of Governor Rendell’s policy for the state to fund some districts at a far higher rate than others.

In the 2009-2010 budget year, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provided a 14% increase in Basic Education Funding for a total of $7,844,307 which was the highest increase awarded to the public school districts in Carbon County. The state Basic Education Funding to the district in 2008-09 was $6,877,289.46. Ninety school districts received a 2% increase. Muhlenberg School District in Berks County received a 22.31% increase in state basic education funding in 2009.[112] 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.[113] 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.[114][115]

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 district applied for and received $313,822 in addition to all other state and federal funding. The district uses the funding to provide Class size reduction, K-3, to improve Science and applied knowledge skills and to hire teacher coaches who work with the teachers to improve their instruction.[116][117]

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. Panther Valley School District was denied funding by the PDE after applying in 2006-07 or in 2007-08. The district received $105,138 in 2008-09.[118] In Carbon County the highest award was given to Jim Thorpe Area School District - $258,394. The highest funding state wide was awarded to Philadelphia City School District in Philadelphia County - $9,409,073. In 2010, Classrooms for the Future funding was curtailed statewide due to a massive state financial crisis.

Education Assistance grant[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 School District received $113,339.[119]

Federal Stimulus grant[edit]

The district received an extra $1,872,313 in ARRA - Federal Stimulus money to be used in specific programs like special education and meeting the academic needs of low-income students.[120][121] The funding was limited to the 2009-10 and 2010-2011 school years.[122] 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]

District officials applied for the federal Race to the Top grant which would have provided over one million dollars in additional federal funding to improve student academic achievement.[123] 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.[124] Pennsylvania was not approved for the grant. The failure of other districts to agree to participate was cited as one reason that Pennsylvania was not approved.[125][126][127]

School Improvement Grant[edit]

In the summer of 2011, the district administration did not apply for School Improvement Grant funding, from the federal government (over $9.9 million available). The high school and the middle school were eligible for funding due to chronic low achievement and Title I status. The grant stipulates the funds be used for improving student achievement using one of four federally dictated strategies. The strategies are: transformation, turnaround, restart with new faculty and administration or closure of failing schools.[128] The Pennsylvania Education Secretary awarded $66 million to reform Pennsylvania's lowest-achieving schools in August 2011. The funding is for three years.[129][130]

For the 2010-11 school year, Panther Valley School District administration applied for a School Improvement Grant receiving $80,676. It was eligible for funding due to the chronic, low achievement at the elementary school.[131]

In 2010, Pennsylvania received $141 million from the federal –US Department of Education, to turn around its worst-performing schools. The funds were disbursed via a competitive grant program.[132] The Pennsylvania Department of Education has identified 200 Pennsylvania schools as "persistently lowest-achieving," making them eligible for this special funding.[133] Pennsylvania required low performing schools to apply or provide documentation about why they had not applied. The funds must be used, by the district, to turn around schools in one of four ways: school closure, restart - close the school and reopen it as a charter school. The other two options involve firing the principal. One would require at least half the faculty in a chronically poor performing school be dismissed. The second involves intensive teacher training coupled with strong curriculum revision or a longer school day.[134]

Real estate taxes[edit]

Property tax rates in 2012-13 were set by the school board at 49.12 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.[135] Property taxes, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, apply only to real estate - land and buildings. The property tax is not levied on cars, business inventory, or other personal property. Certain types of property are exempt from property taxes, including: places of worship, places of burial, private social clubs, charitable and educational institutions and government property. Additionally, service related, disabled US military veterans may seek an exemption from paying property taxes. Pennsylvania school district revenues are dominated by two main sources: 1) Property tax collections, which account for the vast majority (between 75-85%) of local revenues; and 2) Act 511 tax collections, which are around 15% of revenues for school districts.[136] When the school district includes municipalities in two counties, each of which has different rates of property tax assessment, a state board equalizes the tax rates between the counties.[137] 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.[138]

  • 2011-12 - 55.6900 mills Carbon County and 49.1100 mills Schuylkill County.
  • 2010-11 - 55.6900 mills Carbon County and 49.1200 mills Schuylkill County.[139]
  • 2009-10 - 55.6900 mills Carbon County and 50.3100 mills Schuylkill County.[140]
  • 2008-09 - 53.7100 mills Carbon County and 50.2900 mills Schuylkill County.[141]
  • 2007-08 - 46.7600 mills Carbon County and 47.9400 mills Schuylkill County[142]
  • 2006-07 - 43.9800 mills Carbon County and 45.0100 mills Schuylkill County[143]
  • 2005-06 - 43.7990 mills Carbon County and 35.0550 mills Schuylkill County[144]

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 that Index unless they either: 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.[145] In June 2011, the Pennsylvania General Assembly eliminated six of the ten exceptions to the Act 1 Index.[146] 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.[147][148]

The School District Adjusted Index for the Panther Valley School District 2006-2007 through 2011-2012.[149]

  • 2006-07 - 5.5%, Base 3.9%
  • 2007-08 - 4.9%, Base 3.4%
  • 2008-09 - 6.4%, Base 4.4%
  • 2009-10 - 6.0%, Base 4.1%
  • 2010-11 - 4.3%, Base 2.9%
  • 2011-12 - 2.1%, Base 1.4%
  • 2012-13 - 2.5%, Base 1.7%[150]

For the 2012-13 budget year, Panther Valley School Board applied for two exceptions to exceed the Act 1 Index: special education costs and to cover the rapidly escalating costs of teachers' pension. For 2012-2013, 274 school districts adopted a resolution certifying that tax rates would not be increased above their index; 223 school districts adopted a preliminary budget leaving open the option of exceeded the Index limit. For the exception for pension costs, 194 school districts received approval to exceed the Index. For special education costs, 129 districts received approval to exceed the tax limit. For the exception for pension costs, 194 school districts received approval to exceed the Index. For special education costs, 129 districts received approval to exceed the tax limit.[151]

For the 2011-12 school year, the Panther Valley School Board applied for an exception to exceed the Act 1 Index due to the teachers' pension . Each year, Panther Valley School Board has the option of adopting either 1) a resolution in January certifying they will not increase taxes above their index or 2) a preliminary budget in February. A school district adopting the resolution may not apply for referendum exceptions or ask voters for a tax increase above the inflation index. A specific timeline for these decisions is published annually, by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.[152]

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.[153]

Panther Valley School Board applied for two exceptions to exceed the Act 1 index for the budget in 2011: Maintenance of Local Tax Revenue and teachers' pension costs.[154]

For 2009-10 school budget, the Board applied for two exceptions to exceed the Index:Maintenance of Local Tax Revenue and Maintenance of Selected Revenue Sources.[155] 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.[156]

Property tax relief[edit]

In 2012, Panther Valley School District approved homestead residents received $210.[157] In 2012, property tax relief for 3,505 approved residents of Panther Valley School District. In Carbon County, the highest tax relief went to Lehighton Area School District and Weatherly Area School District which was set at $243.[158] The highest property tax relief, among Pennsylvania school districts, went to the homesteads of Chester Upland School District of Delaware County which received $632 per approved homestead in 2010. Chester-Upland School District has consistently been the top recipient since the programs inception.[159] The relief was subtracted from the total annual school property tax bill. Property owners apply for the relief through the county Treasurer's office. Farmers can qualify for a farmstead exemption on building used for agricultural purposes. The farm must be at least 10 contiguous acres (40,000 m2) and must be the primary residence of the owner. Farmers can qualify for both the homestead exemption and the farmstead exemption. In several Pennsylvania counties less than 50% of eligible property owners applied for property tax relief in 2009.[160]

Additionally, the Pennsylvania Property Tax/Rent Rebate program is provided for low income Pennsylvanians aged 65 and older; widows and widowers aged 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older. The income limit is $35,000 for homeowners. The maximum rebate for both homeowners and renters is $650. Applicants can exclude one-half (1/2) of their Social Security income, consequently people who have an income of substantially more than $35,000 may still qualify for a rebate. Individuals must apply annually for the rebate. This tax rebate can be taken in addition to Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Relief. In 2012, Pennsylvania Secretary of the Treasury reported issuing more than half a million property tax rebates totaling $238 million.[161] The program is funded by the Pennsylvania Lottery. Property tax rebates are increased by an additional 50 percent for senior households in the state, so long as those households have incomes under $30,000 and pay more than 15% of their income in property taxes.[162]

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%).[163]

Extracurriculars[edit]

The district offers a wide variety of clubs, activities and costly after school sports. Eligibility for participation is determined by school board policy.

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.[164]

Athletics[edit]

Panther Valley is assigned to the Pennsylvania interscholastic Athletics Association (PIAA) District 11.

Panther Valley funds teams in the following high school sports:

The District also funds the following middle school sports
  • Basketball boys and girls
  • Football boys
  • Track and Field boys and girls
  • Wrestling boys
  • According to PIAA directory July 2012[165]

Random drug testing suit[edit]

The ACLU sued the District on behalf of several students who refused to submit to random drug urinalysis testing in order to have access to extracurriculars. In May 2011, Judge Steven Serfass issued an order prohibiting the district from enforcing the drug testing policy.[166][167] In September 2011, the Panther Valley School Board voted (5-3) to terminate the random drug testing policy.

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External links[edit]