Pottsville Area School District

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Pottsville Area School District
Map of Schuylkill County Pennsylvania School Districts.png
Address
1501 West Laurel Boulevard
Pottsville, Pennsylvania, Schuylkill County, 17901
United States
Information
Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey S. Zwiebel
Faculty 193 teachers (2010)
Grades K-12
Age 5 years old to 21 years old special education
Pupils 3013 (2009-2010)[1]
Kindergarten 194
Grade 1 199
Grade 2 181
Grade 3 221
Grade 4 204
Grade 5 221
Grade 6 201
Grade 7 236
Grade 8 201
Grade 9 307
Grade 10 282
Grade 11 274
Grade 12 269
Other Enrollment projected to be 2879 in 2019 [2]
Team name Crimson Tide
Budget $40,876,385 (2010-11) [3]
Tuition for nonresident and charter school students ES - $7,544.70, HS - $8,385.74 [4]
Per pupil spending $9,642 (2008)
Per pupil spending $11,370.23 (2010)
Website

Pottsville Area School District is a midsized, rural/suburban public school district located in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, serving students in central Schuylkill County. The district includes the City of Pottsville and five additional municipalities: the boroughs of Mechanicsville, Mount Carbon, Port Carbon, Palo Alto, and Norwegian Township.[5] It encompasses approximately 12 square miles (31 km2). According to 2000 federal census data, it serves a resident population of 21,394. According to District officials, in school year 2007-08 the PASD provided basic educational services to 3,131 pupils through the employment of 215 teachers, 162 full-time and part-time support personnel, and 11 administrators. The district has a tuition-based agreement at the secondary level with the Saint Clair Area School District located in the borough of Saint Clair.[5] Total enrollment in 2005–06 was 3,001 students.[5]

Governance[edit]

The school district is governed by nine individually elected board members (serving four-year terms), the Pennsylvania State Board of Education, the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Pennsylvania General Assembly.[6] 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 "D-" for transparency based on a review of "What information can people find on their school district's website". It examined the school district's website for information regarding taxes, the current budget, meetings, school board members names and terms, contracts, audits, public records information and more.[7]

Board of Education[edit]

  • John F. Boran, President
  • Scott Krater, Vice President
  • Linda Grube, Treasurer
  • Dr. Gary A. Cortese
  • Dr. Christina M. DiCello
  • Patrick F. Moran
  • Cindy M. Petchulis
  • Karen E. Rismiller, Esq
  • Charles Wagner

Schools[edit]

The Pottsville Area Crimson Tide logo, the district's mascot
  • Pottsville Area High School (grades 9–12)
  • D.H.H. Lengel Middle School (grades 5–8)
  • John S. Clarke Elementary School (grades K–4)

Academic achievement[edit]

The Pottsville Area School District was ranked 279th out of 498 Pennsylvania school districts, in 2012, by the Pittsburgh Business Times. The ranking was based on the last three years of student academic performance on the PSSA results in: reading, writing, mathematics and science.[8] The PSSAs are given to all children in grades 3rd through 8th and the 11th grade in high school. Adapted examinations are given to children in the special education programs.

  • 2011 - 318th [9]
  • 2010 - 356th [10]
  • 2009 - 397th
  • 2008 - 366th
  • 2007 - 344th of 501 school districts by the Pittsburgh Business Times.[11]
Overachiever statewide ranking

In 2012, the Pittsburgh Business Times also reported an Overachievers Ranking for 498 Pennsylvania school districts. Pottsville Area School District ranked 79th. In 2011, the district was ranked 100th. [12] 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."[13]

District Adequate Yearly Progress History (AYP)

In 2011, Pottsville Area School District declined to District Improvement I status under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The lowered status was due to low graduation rate and underachievement of reading on grade level in the elementary school.[14] In 2010, the District declined to Warning status due to low graduation levels.[15] Pottsville Area School District achieved Adequate Yearly Progress status in both 2009 and 2008. 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.

In 2009, the academic achievement, of the students in the Pottsville Area School District was in the 27th percentile among all 500 Pennsylvania school districts Scale (0-99; 100 is state best) [16]

Graduation rate[edit]

In 2011, Pottsville Area School District's graduation rate was 77%.[17] In 2010, the Pennsylvania Department of Education issued a new, 4-year cohort graduation rate. Pottsville High School's rate was 76% for 2010.[18]

According to traditional graduation rate calculations

High school[edit]

Pottsville Area High School is located at 16th Street & Elk Avenue, Pottsville. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the school reported an enrollment of 1,133 pupils in grades 9th through 12th, with 454 pupils eligible for a federal free or reduced-price lunch. The school employed 70.50 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 16:1.[23] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of its teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind.[24] Ninth through 12th grade students (approximately 50 per grade) from neighboring Saint Clair Area School District attend Pottsville Area High School. Their district pays an annual tuition fee set by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Pottsville is one of five high schools in the Commonwealth that accepts large groups of students from neighboring districts under a contract with the district.

AYP status

Pottsville Area High School declined to School Improvement II AYP status due to persistently low graduation rate in 2011. The high school is in School Improvement I AYP status due to persistently low graduation rate in 2010. The attendance rate was reported as 94%.

PSSA results
11th Grade Reading
  • 2011 - 72% on grade level, (14% below basic). State - 69.1% of 11th graders are on grade level.[25]
  • 2010 - 76% (13% below basic). State - 66% [26]
  • 2009 - 68%, State - 65% [27]
  • 2008 - 60%, State - 65%[28]
  • 2007 - 60%, State - 65% [29]
11th Grade Math
  • 2011 - 62% on grade level (21% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 60.3% of 11th graders are on grade level.[30]
  • 2010 - 60% (25% below basic). State - 59%
  • 2009 - 55%, State - 56%
  • 2008 - 36%, State - 56% [31]
  • 2007 - 44%, State - 53%
11th Grade Science
  • 2011 - 35% on grade level (16% below basic). State - 40% of 11th graders were on grade level.[32]
  • 2010 - 36% (15% below basic). State - 39%
  • 2009 - 31%, State - 40%
  • 2008 - 27%, State - 39%

College remediation[edit]

According to a Pennsylvania Department of Education study released in January 2009, 23% of Pottsville Area High School graduates required remediation in mathematics and or reading before they were prepared to take college level courses in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education or community colleges.[33] 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.[34] 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, 175 Pottsville Area students took the SAT exams. The district's Verbal Average Score was 484. The Math average score was 487. The Writing average score was 457.[35] Pennsylvania ranked 40th among states with SAT scores: Verbal - 493, Math - 501, Writing - 479.[36] 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.[37]

Dual enrollment[edit]

The high school offers the Pennsylvania dual enrollment program. This state program permits high school students to take courses, at local higher education institutions, to earn college credits. Students remain enrolled at their high school. The courses count towards high school graduation requirements and towards earning a college degree. The students continue to have full access to activities and programs at their high school. The college credits are offered at a deeply discounted rate. The state offers a small grant to assist students in costs for tuition, fees and books.[38] In 2010 the district received $2,832.00. Under the Pennsylvania Transfer and Articulation Agreement, many Pennsylvania colleges and universities accept these credits for students who transfer to their institutions.[39] The Pennsylvania College Credit Transfer System reported in 2009, that students saved nearly $35.4 million by having their transferred credits count towards a degree under the new system.[40]

Graduation requirements[edit]

The Pottsville Area School Board has determined that students must earn 23 credits to graduate, including: 4 credits of English, 4 credits of Social Studies, 4 credits of Mathematics, 3 credits of Science, 2 credits of Humanities 1 credit of Health and Electives. Additionally, proficiency on the PSSA Reading and Mathematics Examinations or successful completion of English 12 and/or Mathematics 12 is required.[41]

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.[42]

By Pennsylvania School Board regulations, for the graduating classes of 2016, 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.[43]

Middle school[edit]

Lengel Middle School is located at 1541 Laurel Blvd, Pottsville. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the school reported an enrollment of 852 pupils in grades 5th through 8th, with 478 pupils receiving a federal free or reduced-price lunch due to family poverty. The school is Title 1 school wide. The school employed 56 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 15:1.[44] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 4 teachers were rated "Non‐Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind.[45]

AYP status

IN 2010 and 2011 Lengel Middle School achieved Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) status.[46]

8th Grade Reading
  • 2011 - 82% on grade level (10% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 81.8% of 8th graders on grade level.[47]
  • 2010 - 80% (6% below basic). State - 81% [48]
  • 2009 - 84%, State - 80% [49]
  • 2008 - 76%, State - 78% [50]
  • 2007 - 75%, State - 75%[51]
8th Grade Math
  • 2011 - 83% on grade level (10% below basic). State - 76.9%
  • 2010 - 73% (12% below basic). State - 75%
  • 2009 - 72%, State - 71%
  • 2008 - 64%, State - 70% [52]
  • 2007 - 59%, State - 67%
8th Grade Science
  • 2011 - 67% on grade level (19% below basic). State – 58.3% of 8th graders were on grade level.
  • 2010 - 51% (27% below basic). State - 57%.
  • 2009 - 57%, State: - 54% [53]
  • 2008 - 49%, State - 52% [54]

The Lengel Middle School offers numerous student activities. In addition to interscholastic athletics: basketball, football, track and field, wrestling, it offers Band, Choir, Art Club, Spanish Club, German Club, French Club, Cheerleading, Newspaper Club, Ecology Club, as well as Spelling Bee and Envirothon Teams. The students broadcast the morning announcements via the school's building wide television system.

Clarke Elementary Center[edit]

Clarke Elementary Center is located at 601 North 16th Street, Pottsville. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the school reported an enrollment of 1,046 pupils in grades kindergarten through 4th, with 610 pupils receiving a federal free or reduced-price lunch due to family poverty. The school is Title I school-wide. The school employed 67 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 16:1.[55] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of its teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind.[56] In 2011, Clarke Elementary School achieved AYP status.[57] In 2010, the school was in Warning status due to lagging student achievement in reading and math.[58]

4th Grade Science
  • 2011 - 80% (4% below basic). State – 82.9%
  • 2010 - 82% (4% below basic). State - 81%
  • 2009 - 93%, State - 83%[60]
  • 2008 - 80%, State - 81%

Science It’s Elementary grant[edit]

Elementary School successfully applied to participate and received a Science It’s Elementary grant in 2008-09. For the 2008-09 school year, the program was offered in 143 schools reaching 2,847 teachers and 66,973 students across Pennsylvania.[61] In 2007, the Pennsylvania Department of Education initiated an effort to improve science instruction in the Commonwealth’s public elementary schools. Called Science: It’s Elementary, the program is a hands on instruction approach for elementary science classes that develops problem-solving and critical thinking skills.[62] To encourage schools to adopt the program’s standards aligned curriculum, the state provided a grant to cover the costs of materials and extensive mandatory teacher training.[63] The district was required to develop a three-year implementation plan for the participating school. They had to appoint a district liaison who was paid $3000 by PDE to serve as the conduit of all information between the district and the Department and its agents along with submitting orders and distributing supplies to implementing teachers. For the 2006-07 state education budget, $10 million was allocated. The 2006-07 State Education Budget provided $635 million in new spending for pre-K through 12th grades for the 2006-07 school year.[64] The grant program was expanded to $14.5 million in the 2008-09 budget.

Special education[edit]

In December 2010, the district administration reported that 450 pupils or 16% of the district's pupils received Special Education services, with 45% of identified students having a specific learning disability. In December 2009, the district administration reported that 447 pupils or 14.6% of the district's pupils received Special Education services.[65]

The District engages in identification procedures to ensure that eligible students receive an appropriate educational program consisting of special education and related services, individualized to meet student needs. At no cost to the parents, these services are provided in compliance with state and federal law; and are reasonably calculated to yield meaningful educational benefit and student progress. To identify students who may be eligible for special education, various screening activities are conducted on an ongoing basis. These screening activities include: review of group-based data (cumulative records, enrollment records, health records, report cards, ability and achievement test scores); hearing, vision, motor, and speech/language screening; and review by the Instructional Support Team or Student Assistance Team. When screening results suggest that the student may be eligible, the District seeks parental consent to conduct a multidisciplinary evaluation. Parents who suspect their child is eligible may verbally request a multidisciplinary evaluation from a professional employee of the District or contact the Supervisor of Special Education.[66][67]

In 2010, the state of Pennsylvania provided $1,026,815,000 for special education services. The funds were distributed to districts based on a state policy which estimates that 16% of the district's pupils are receiving 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.[68]

Pottsville Area School District received a $1,552,794 supplement for special education services in 2010.[69] 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.[70][71]

Gifted education[edit]

The District Administration reported that 23 or 0.76% of its students were gifted in 2009.[72] By law, the district must provide mentally gifted programs at all grade levels. The primary emphasis is on enrichment and acceleration of the regular education curriculum through a push in model with the gifted instructor in the classroom with the regular instructor. This approach permits such specialized instructional strategies as tiered assignments, curriculum compacting, flexible grouping, learning stations, independent projects and independent contracts. Students identified as gifted attending the High School have access to honors and advanced placement courses, and dual enrollment with local colleges. The referral process for a gifted evaluation can be initiated by teachers or parents by contacting the student’s building principal and requesting an evaluation. All requests must be made in writing. To be eligible for mentally gifted programs in Pennsylvania, a student must have a cognitive ability of at least 130 as measured on a standardized ability test by a certified school psychologist. Other factors that indicate giftedness will also be considered for eligibility.[73]

Bullying policy[edit]

The Pottsville Area School District administration reported there were 2 incidents of bullying in the district in 2009.[74][75]

The Pottsville Area School Board has provided the district's antibully policy online.[76] All Pennsylvania schools are required to have an anti-bullying policy incorporated into their Code of Student Conduct. The policy must identify disciplinary actions for bullying and designate a school staff person to receive complaints of bullying. The policy must be available on the school's website and posted in every classroom. All Pennsylvania public schools must provide a copy of its anti-bullying policy to the Office for Safe Schools every year, and shall review their policy every three years. Additionally, the district must conduct an annual review of that policy with students.[77] The Center for Schools and Communities works in partnership with the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime & Delinquency and the Pennsylvania Department of Education to assist schools and communities as they research, select and implement bullying prevention programs and initiatives.[78]

Education standards relating to student safety and antiharassment programs are described in the 10.3. Safety and Injury Prevention in the Pennsylvania Academic Standards for Health, Safety and Physical Education.[79]

Wellness policy[edit]

The School Board established a district wellness policy in May 13, 2009.[80] The policy deals with nutritious meals served at school, the control of access to some foods and beverages during school hours, age appropriate nutrition education for all students, and physical education for students K-12. The policy is in response to state mandates and federal legislation (P.L. 108 - 265). The law dictates that each school district participating in a program authorized by the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (42 U.S.C. 1751 et seq) or the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 (42 U.S.C. 1771 et seq) "shall establish a local school wellness policy by School Year 2006."

The legislation placed the responsibility of developing a wellness policy at the local level intending that the individual needs of each district 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.[81]

The Pennsylvania Department of Education required the district to submit a copy of the policy for approval. A study was conducted of the submitted policies (n=499). It found that the majority of districts complied with the mandates of the law. Most districts identified the superintendent and school foodservice director as responsible for ensuring local wellness policy implementation.[82]

Budget[edit]

In 2011, the average teacher salary in Pottsville Area School District was $53,738.71 a year, while the cost of the benefits teachers receive was $15,382.53 per employee, for a total annual average teacher compensation of $69,121.24.[83] 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.[84]

In 2009, the district reports employing over 250 teachers with a starting salary of $35,081.[85] The average teacher salary was $52,501 while the maximum salary is $128,742.[86] In Pennsylvania, the average teacher salary for Pennsylvania's 124,100 public school teachers was $54,977 in 2008.[87] 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.[88] Additionally, Pottsville Area School District teachers receive a defined benefit pension, health insurance, professional development reimbursement, income protection insurance, 3 paid personal days, 5 paid bereavement days, sabbatical leave (1/2 pay with full benefits) and 10 sick days, life insurance health insurance for retirees and other benefits.[89] According to State Rep. Glen Grell, a trustee of the Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System Board, a 40-year educator can retire with a pension equal to 100 percent of their final salary.[90]

In 2007, the district employed 181 teachers. The average teacher salary in the district was $53,777 for 180 school days worked. This is the highest paid teachers in Schuylkill County.[91]

Pottsville Area School District administrative costs per pupil in 2008 was $575 per pupil. The district is ranked 465th out of 500 in Pennsylvania for administrative spending. The lowest administrative cost per pupil in Pennsylvania was $398 per pupil.[92]

In 2008, Pottsville Area School District reported spending $9,642 per pupil. This ranked 466th in the commonwealth.[93] In 2010 the per pupil spending had increased to $11,370.23 [94] Among the states, Pennsylvania’s total per pupil revenue (including all sources) ranked 11th at $15,023 per student, in 2008-09.[95] In 2007, the Pennsylvania per pupil total expenditures was $12,759.[96] The U.S. Census Bureau reports that Pennsylvania spent $8,191 per pupil in school year year 2000-01.[97]

Reserves

In 2009, the district reported a $11,587,789 in an unreserved-undesignated fund balance. The designated fund balance was reported as zero.[98] In 2010, Pottsville Area Administration reported an increase to $14,243,148 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.[99]

In December 11, 2009, the Pennsylvania Auditor General conducted a performance audit of the district. Findings were reported to the administration and school board.[100]

The district is funded by a combination of: a local income tax, a property tax, a real estate transfer tax, coupled with substantial funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the federal government. The District receives substantial funding in the form of tuition payments from Saint Clair Area School District for their grades 9-12 students to attend Pottsvile Area High School. Grants can provide an opportunity to supplement school funding without raising local taxes. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, pension and Social Security income are exempted from state personal income tax and local earned income tax regardless of the individual's wealth.[101]

State basic education funding[edit]

For the 2012-13 school year, Pottsville Area School District will receive $12,566,215.[102] 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.[103] 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, Pottsville Area School District received a $12,396,020 allocation, of state Basic Education Funding.[104][105] Additionally, the School District received $177,613 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.[106] 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.[107] In 2010, the district reported that 882 students received free or reduced-price lunches, due to the family meeting the federal poverty level.[108]

For 2010-11 the Pottsville Area School District received a 5.19% increase in state Basic Education Funding resulting in a $13,757,840 payment.[109] The highest increase in BEF in Schuylkill County went to Minersville Area School District which received 9.96%. One hundred fifty school districts received the base 2% increase. Kennett Consolidated School District in Chester County received the highest increase in the state at 23.65% increase in funding for the 2010-11 school year. 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 to fund some districts at a far greater rate than others.

In the 2009-2010 budget year the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provided an 11.97% increase in Basic Education funding for a total of $13,078,867. The state Basic Education funding to the district in 2008-09 was $11,680,455.59. The district also received supplemental funding for English language learners, Title 1 federal funding for low-income students, for district size, a poverty supplement from the commonwealth and more.[110] Shenandoah Valley School District was the highest increase in Schuylkill County with a 14.50% increase in basic education funding, for the 2009-10 school year. Among the 500 school districts in Pennsylvania, Muhlenberg School District in Berks County received the highest with a 22.31% increase in funding.[111] According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 1,424 district students received free or reduced-price lunches due to low family income in the 2007-2008 school year.[112]

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.[113][114]

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 Pottsville Area School District applied for and received $482,084 in addition to all other state and federal funding. The district used the funding to provide full-day kindergarten for the seventh year.[115][116]

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. Pottsville Area School District did not apply for funding in 2006-07 nor In 2007-08. For the 2008-09, school year the district received $185,465. Of the 501 public school districts in Pennsylvania, 447 of them received Classrooms for the Future grant awards.[117] In Schuylkill County the highest award $245,673 was given to North Schuylkill School District. 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.

Federal Stimulus grant[edit]

The district received an extra $3,558,013 in ARRA - Federal Stimulus money to be used in specific programs like special education and meeting the academic needs of low-income students.[118] The funding was limited to the 2009-10 and 2010-2011 school years.[119] Due to the temporary nature of the funding, schools were repeatedly advised to use the funds for one-time expenditures like acquiring equipment, making repairs to buildings, training teachers to provide more effective instruction or purchasing books and software.

Race to the Top grant[edit]

School district officials applied for the Race to the Top federal grant which would have brought the district millions of additional federal dollars for improving student academic achievement.[120] 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.[121] 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.[122]

Common Cents state initiative[edit]

The Pottsville Area School Board did not participate in the Pennsylvania Department of Education Common Cents program. The program called for the state to audit the district, at no cost to local taxpayers, to identify ways the district could save tax dollars.[123] After the review of the information, the district was not required to implement the recommended cost savings changes.

Real estate taxes[edit]

The school board set property tax rates in 2012-2013 at 34.0000 mills.[124] 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. 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 (Local Tax Enabling Act), which are around 15% of revenues for school districts.[125] The school district includes municipalities in two counties, each of which has different rates of property tax assessment, necessitating a state board equalization of the tax rates between the counties.

  • 2011-12 - 34.0000 mills [126]
  • 2010-11 - 34.0000 mills.[127]
  • 2009-10 - 34.0000 mills.[128]
  • 2008-09 - 34.0000 mills.[129]
  • 2007-08 - 34.0000 mills.[130]
  • 2006-07 - 34.0000 mills.[131]
  • 2005-06 - 34.0000 mills.[132]

Act 1 Adjusted index[edit]

The Act 1 of 2006 Index regulates the rates at which each school district can raise property taxes in Pennsylvania. Districts are not authorized to raise taxes above that index unless they allow voters to vote by referendum, or they seek an exception from the state Department of Education. The base index for the 2011-2012 school year is 1.4 percent, but the Act 1 Index can be adjusted higher, depending on a number of factors, such as property values and the personal income of district residents. Act 1 included 10 exceptions, including: increasing pension costs, increases in special education costs, a catastrophe like a fire or flood, increase in health insurance costs for contracts in effect in 2006 or dwindling tax bases. The base index is the average of the percentage increase in the statewide average weekly wage, as determined by the PA Department of Labor and Industry, for the preceding calendar year and the percentage increase in the Employment Cost Index for Elementary and Secondary Schools, as determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the U.S. Department of Labor, for the previous 12-month period ending June 30. For a school district with a market value/personal income aid ratio (MV/PI AR) greater than 0.4000, its index equals the base index multiplied by the sum of .75 and its MV/PI AR for the current year.[133] In June 2011, the Pennsylvania General Assembly eliminated six of the ten exceptions to the Act 1 Index.[134] 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.[135][136]

The School District Adjusted Index for the Pottsville Area School District 2006-2007 through 2010-2011.[137]

  • 2006-07 - 5.4%, Base 3.9%
  • 2007-08 - 4.8%, Base 3.4%
  • 2008-09 - 6.1%, Base 4.4%
  • 2009-10 - 5.8%, Base 4.1%
  • 2010-11 - 4.1%, Base 2.9%
  • 2011-12 - 2.0%, Base 1.4%
  • 2012-13 - 2.4%, Base 1.7% [138]

For the 2012-13 budget year, Pottsville Area School Board did not apply for exceptions to exceed the Act 1 Index. For 2012-2013, 274 school districts adopted a resolution certifying that tax rates would not be increased above their index; 223 school districts adopted a preliminary budget leaving open the option of exceeded the Index limit. For the exception for pension costs, 194 school districts received approval to exceed the Index. For special education costs, 129 districts received approval to exceed the tax limit. 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.[139]

For the 2011-12 school year, the Pottsville Area School Board did not apply for an exception to exceed the Act 1 Index. Each year, the Pottsville Area 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.[140]

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.[141]

Pottsville Area School Board did not apply for exceptions to exceed the Act 1 index for the budgets in 2010-11.[142] 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.[143]

Property tax relief[edit]

In 2009, the Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Relief from gambling for the Pottsville Area School District was $138 per approved permanent primary residence. In the district, 5,087 property owners applied for the tax relief. Schuylkill Haven Area School District received $195 which was the highest property tax relief allotted in Schuylkill County for 2009.[144] The tax relief was subtracted from the total annual school property on the individual's tax bill. Property owners apply for the relief through the county Treasurer's office. Farmers can qualify for a farmstead exemption on building used for agricultural purposes. The farm must be at least 10 contiguous acres and must be the primary residence of the owner. Farmers can qualify for both the homestead exemption and the farmstead exemption.[145] Pennsylvania awarded the highest property tax relief to residents of the Chester-Upland School District in Delaware County at $632 per homestead and farmstead in 2010.[146] This was the second year they were the top recipient.

Additionally, the Pennsylvania Property Tax/Rent Rebate program is provided for low-income Pennsylvanians aged 65 and older; widows and widowers aged 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older. The income limit is $35,000 for homeowners. The maximum rebate for both homeowners and renters is $650. Applicants can exclude one-half (1/2) of their Social Security income, consequently individuals who have income substantially more than $35,000 may still qualify for a rebate. Individuals must apply annually for the rebate. This can be taken in addition to Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Relief.[147]

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%).[148]

Extracurriculars[edit]

The district offers a variety of clubs, activities and sports. Eligibility to participate is set by school board policies.[149][150]

By Pennsylvania law, all K-12 students in the district, including those who attend a private nonpublic school, cyber charter school, charter school and those home-schooled, are eligible to participate in the extracurricular programs, including all athletics. They must meet the same eligibility rules as the students enrolled in the district's schools.[151][152]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]