Towanda Area School District

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Towanda Area School District
Map of Bradford County Pennsylvania School Districts.png
Each Child By Name Achieving Proficiency in Reading and Math
Location
Towanda, Pennsylvania, Bradford County, 18848
United States
Information
School board 9 locally elected
School district IV
Superintendent Diane M. Place, M'Ed (salary $109,100 in 2009)
Principal Dennis Peachy
Asst. Principal Eric Knolles
Faculty 109 in 2010[1]
Grades K-12
Pupils 1653 pupils (2010)[2]
Kindergarten 184
Grade 1 103
Grade 2 104
Grade 3 94
Grade 4 104
Grade 5 122
Grade 6 123
Grade 7 124
Grade 8 115
Grade 9 128
Grade 10 149
Grade 11 141
Grade 12 147
Other Enrollment projected to be 1777 pupils in 2020[3]
Hours in school day 8:10-3:10
Color(s) Black and orange
Slogan The Quest to Be The Best
Song Alma Mater
Athletics Boy and girls: soccer, basketball, swimming, tennis, track and field.
Mascot Knights
Nickname Black Knights
Rival Wyalusing
Budget $22.9 million (2012-13)[4]
Tuition for nonresident and charter school students ES - $7,797.38, HS - $7,622.32[5]
Alumni Jordan Wollenberg, Kevin Davenport, Ben Griffith, Nate Bennett, Troy Gordon, Garrett Sims
Per pupil spending $11,425 (2008)
Per pupil Spending $11,954.41
Website

The Towanda Area School District is a small, rural public school district located in central Bradford County, Pennsylvania. covers the Boroughs of Towanda and Monroe and Franklin Township, Monroe Township, Towanda Township, North Towanda Township, Wysox Township, Asylum Township and Standing Stone Township. Towanda Area School District encompasses approximately 163 square miles (420 km2). According to 2000 federal census data, it serves a resident population of 8,662. In 2009, the district residents’ per capita income was $17,634, while the median family income was $41,286.[6] In the Commonwealth, the median family income was $49,501[7] and the United States median family income was $49,445, in 2010.[8]

According to District officials, in school year 2008-07 the Towanda Area School District provided basic educational services to 1,731 pupils. The District employed 123 teachers, 97 full-time and part-time support personnel, and 11 administrators. Towanda Area School District received more than $9.4 million in state funding in school year 2007-08.

The district operates Towanda Junior/Senior High School (7th-12th), J. Andrew Morrow Elementary School (K-2nd) and Towanda Elementary School (3rd-6th).

Governance[edit]

The 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.[9] 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 district is divided into 3 electoral regions with 3 board members elected from each region.[10]

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.[11]

Academic achievement[edit]

Towanda Area School District was ranked 433rd out of 498 Pennsylvania school districts by the Pittsburgh Business Times in 2012.[12] The ranking was based on student academic achievement as demonstrated on the last three years of the PSSAs for: reading, writing math and science.[13] 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 - 423rd[14]
  • 2010 - 403rd[15]
  • 2009 - 385th
  • 2008 - 430th
  • 2007 - 447th out of 501 school districts.[16]

In 2012, the Pittsburgh Business Times also reported an Overachievers Ranking for 498 Pennsylvania school districts. Towanda Area School District ranked 425th. In 2011, the district was 344th.[17] 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."[18]

In 2012, Towanda Area School District achieved AYP status under the No Child Left Behind Act, while Towanda Area Junior Senior High School declined to Corrective Action Level I.[19] In 2010 and 2011, Towanda Area School District achieved AYP status even though the high school has declined to School Improvement II due to continuing low student achievement.[20] 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.

Graduation rate[edit]

In 2012, Towanda Area School District's graduation rate rose to 84%.[21] In 2011, the District's graduation rate was 78%.[22] In 2010, the Pennsylvania Department of Education issued a new, 4-year cohort graduation rate. High School's rate was % for 2010.[23]

According to traditional graduation rate calculations

High school[edit]

Towanda Area Junior Senior High School is located at 1 High School Drive, Towanda. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the school reported an enrollment of 828 pupils in grades 7th through 12th, with 322 pupils eligible for a federal free or reduced-price lunch. The school employed 50 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 16:1.[28] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of its teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind.[29]

In 2012, Towanda Area Junior Senior High School declined to Corrective Action Level I due to a low graduation rate coupled with protracted low student academic achievement in reading and especially mathematics.[30] Students retained the right to transfer to a better performing school in the district. Additionally, the students qualified for an Education Improvement Tax Credit to use to attend a non public school. In 2011, Towanda Area Junior Senior High School declined to School Improvement II status' due to a low graduation rate coupled with protracted low student academic achievement in both reading and mathematics.[31] In 2010 and 2009, Towanda Area Junior Senior High School remained in School Improvement I status due to continuing lagging student achievement.[32] Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, the school administration was required to notify parents of the school's poor achievement outcomes and to offer the parent the opportunity to transfer to a successful school within the District. 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.[33] Under the Pennsylvania Accountability System, the school must pay fro additional tutoring for struggling students.[34]

11th Grade Reading:

  • 2012 - 59% on grade level, (24% below basic). State - 67% of 11th graders are on grade level.[35]
  • 2011 - 52%, (26% below basic). State - 69.1% [36]
  • 2010 - 55% (27% below basic). State - 66%[37]
  • 2009 - 57% (29% below basic). State - 65%[38]
  • 2008 - 60% (18% below basic). State - 65%[39]
  • 2007 - 60% (22% below basic). State - 65%[40]

11th Grade Math:

  • 2012 - 47% on grade level (30% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 59% of 11th graders are on grade level.[41]
  • 2011 - 48% (21% below basic). State - 60.3% [42]
  • 2010 - 48% (34% below basic). State - 59%[43]
  • 2009 - 46% (28% below basic). State - 56%.[44]
  • 2008 - 66% (15% below basic). State - 56%[45]
  • 2007 - 67% (21% below basic). State - 53%[46]

11th Grade Science:

  • 2012 - 32% on grade level (15% below basic). State - 42% of 11th graders were on grade level.

[47]

  • 2011 - 24% (18% below basic). State - 40% [48]
  • 2010 - 27% (25% below basic). State - 39%
  • 2009 - 31% (24% below basic). State - 40%[49]
  • 2008 - 35% (17% below basic). State - 39%[50]

College remediation rate[edit]

According to a Pennsylvania Department of Education study released in January 2009, 12% of the Towanda Area Junior Senior High School graduates required remediation in mathematics and or reading before they were prepared to take college level courses in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education or community colleges.[51] 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.[52] 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]

Towanda School District offers several AP courses through a dual enrollment program with Keystone College. 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.[53] Under the Pennsylvania Transfer and Articulation Agreement, many Pennsylvania colleges and universities accept these credits for students who transfer to their institutions.[54] For the 2009-10 funding year, Towanda Area School District received a state grant of $20,647 for the program.[55]

Graduation requirements[edit]

Towanda Area School Board has determined that a pupil must earn 25 credits to graduate, including: a required class every year in math 4 credits, English 4 credits, social studies 4 credits, science 3 credits, Physical Education Wellness 1.75 credits, and electives. Students must carry 6 core courses each year. To be promoted to 11th grade a student must have earned 12 credits.[56][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 Towanda Area Junior Senior High School a student must complete 10 hours of community service and the graduation project, or an additional 20 hours of community service.

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 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.

Cash reward program[edit]

Towanda Area Senior High school participates in the Challenge Program. The program pays $250.00 cash incentives to Towanda Area 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.[63]

SAT scores[edit]

From January to June 2011, 74 Towanda Area students took the SAT exams. The district's Verbal Average Score was 483. The Math average score was 486. The Writing average score was 443.[64] Pennsylvania ranked 40th among states with SAT scores: Verbal - 493, Math - 501, Writing - 479.[65] In the United States, 1.65 million students took the exam in 2011. They averaged 497 (out of 800) verbal, 514 math and 489 in writing.[66]

Junior High School academics[edit]

PSSA Results:

8th Grade Science:

  • 2012 - 64% on grade level (22% below basic). State - 59% of 8th graders were on grade level.
  • 2011 - 43% (25% below basic). State – 58.3%
  • 2010 - 43% (35% below basic). State – 57%
  • 2009 - 46% (25% below basic). State - 55%
  • 2008 - 38% (27% below basic). State - 52%
  • 2007 - tested, but results not made public.

Elementary schools[edit]

Towanda Area Elementary School is located at 420 State Street, Towanda. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the school reported an enrollment of 455 pupils in grades 3rd through 6th, with 228 pupils receiving a federal free or reduced-price lunch due to family poverty. The school employed 34 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 13:1.[67] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of its teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind.[68] In 2012 and 2011, Towanda Area Elementary School achieved AYP status.[69] In 2010, the school was in Warning status due to lagging reading achievement.[70] The Towanda Area School District makes accessible before and after school child care to students age 4 – 12, in conjunction with Bradford County Day Care. A universal breakfast program is provided to all elementary students in grades Kindergarten through 6th in the classrooms funded by the taxpayers and at no charge to the child or their parent(s). The school reports the attendance rte in 2011 was 96%.

PSSA Results
4th Grade Science
  • 2012 - 78%, (8% below basic). State - 82%
  • 2011 - 73% (7% below basic). State – 82.9%
  • 2010 - 79% (7% below basic). State - 81%
  • 2009 - 76% (5% below basic). State - 83%
  • 2008 - 81% (2% below basic). State - 81%

J Andrew Morrow Primary School is located at 101 N 4th Street, Towanda. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the school reported an enrollment of 376 pupils in grades kindergarten, first, second, with 185 pupils receiving a federal free or reduced-price lunch due to family poverty. The school employed 25 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 15:1.[76] The school also offers taxpayer funded preschool. The school hosts the Towanda Area Family Center which is administered by the Towanda Area School District and funded primarily through a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare. The Center focuses on family support, parent education and school readiness for preschoolers. A universal breakfast program is provided to all elementary students in grades Kindergarten through 6th in the classrooms funded by the taxpayers and at no charge to the child or their parent(s). The school was named in honor of John Andrew Morrow a former local education official.[77] Morrow Primary School participated in a Safe Routes to School Academy grant activity in 2010. Students participated in a Kid Writing contest which promoted walking to school safely. Each winner was presented with a medal and all students received water bottles promoting walking to school safely. The activity was funded by the PA Department of Transportation US Department of Transportation.[78]

Special education[edit]

In December 2010, Towanda Area School District administration reported that 201 pupils or 12% of the district's pupils received Special Education services with 48% of the identified students having a specific learning disability. In December 2009, the District administration reported that 212 pupils or 12.7% of the district's pupils received Special Education]services[79]

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.[80] 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.[81] The state requires each district to have a three-year special education plan to meet the unique needs of its special education students.[82] 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.[83]

Towanda Area School District received a $1,050,949 supplement for special education services in 2010.[84] 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.[85][86]

In 2009, Towanda Area School District was identified by the Pennsylvania Department of Education for Least Restrictive Environment monitoring. One hundred ninety six schools districts were selected in 2008-09. The district received an alert letter from the PDE - Bureau of Special Education.[87] School districts were placed in one of three categories: Tier 1, Tier 2 or Tier 3. Towanda Area School District was placed in Tier 3 due to students spending more than 60% of the school day, outside of regular education. The monitoring is a product of the PDE addressing its voluntary settlement in Gaskin V. Pennsylvania which ordered that special education students spend most of their school day (80%) in regular education classrooms with supplementary aids and services to assist funded by the taxpayers.[88][89][90] In 2010, the district was assigned to the Tier 3 monitoring list, due to students spending less than 40% of their day in a regular education classroom. The district received a letter of “Warning” letter from the Pennsylvania Department of Education.[91]

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.[92] 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.[93][94]

Budget[edit]

In 2011, the average teacher salary in Towanda Area School District was $61,896.74 a year, while the cost of the benefits teachers receive was $16,969.62 per employee, for a total annual average teacher compensation of $77,855.37.[95] 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.[96]

In 2009, the district reported employing 187 teachers and administrators with a median salary of $61,040 and a top salary of $109,100.[97] The teacher’s work day is seven hours forty five minutes with 180 instructional days in the 187 days contract year. Teachers receive additional pay for required work beyond the school day or contract year. Additionally, the teachers receive a defined benefit pension, health insurance, professional development reimbursement, 2 paid personal days, 2 days visitation leave, 10 paid sick days, 2 paid bereavement leave days and other benefits. The teacher's union receives 4 days off with pay for conducting union business.[98][99]

Towanda Area School District administrative costs per pupil in 2008 was $594.26 per pupil. The lowest administrative cost per pupil in Pennsylvania was $398 per pupil.[100] 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.[101]

In 2008, Towanda Area School District administration reported that per pupil spending was $11,425 which ranked 348th among Pennsylvania's 501 school districts. In 2010, the District's per pupil spending had increased to $11,954.41[102] Among the states, Pennsylvania’s total per pupil revenue (including all sources) ranked 11th at $15,023 per student, in 2008-09.[103] In 2007, the Pennsylvania per pupil total expenditures was $12,759.[104] The U.S. Census Bureau reports that Pennsylvania spent $8,191 per pupil in school year year 2000-01.[105]

Reserves In 2008, the district reported a balance of zero in an unreserved-designated fund. The unreserved-undesignated fund balance was reported as $2,257,018.[106] In 2010, Area Administration reported an increase to $3,870,201 in the unreserved-undesignated fund balance and $3,870,201 in its unreserved-designated fund. 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.[107]

In June 2010, the Pennsylvania Auditor General conducted a performance audit of the District. The findings were reported to the Towanda Area School Board and the District’s administration.[108]

In November 2011, the District received a $193,970 payment as part of a class action lawsuit against Morgan Stanley Capital Services regarding an interest swap deal the Board had entered into a $10 million. A swap is a financial contract between two parties betting on which way interest rates will move. The party that guesses correctly gets paid and the party that guesses incorrectly must pay the other party. The amount of cash being swapped is determined by the size of the debt being financed by bonds with variable interest rates. The higher the debt, the costlier the bet.

The district is funded by a combination of: a local occupation tax, a property tax, a real estate transfer tax 0.5%, coupled with substantial funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the federal government.[109] 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.[110] In 2012, Towanda Area School Board placed on the ballot a measure to change from the Occupation Tax to an earned income tax. The ballot question was approved (Yes - 1,829, No - 1,765).[111]

State basic education funding[edit]

For the 2012-13 school year, Towanda Area School District will receive $6,359,103.[112] 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.[113] 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, Towanda Area School District received a $6,233,208, allocation, of state Basic Education Funding.[114][115] Additionally, Towanda Area School District received $125,334 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 is a $233,290,000 increase (4.6%) over the enacted State appropriation for 2010-2011.[116] 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.[117] In 2010, the district reported that 775 students received free or reduced-price lunches, due to the family meeting the federal poverty level.[118]

In the 2010-2011 budget year, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provided a 6.36% increase, in Basic Education Funding, for a total of $6,8892,167 to Towanda Area School District. Towanda Area School District received the highest increase among Bradford County school districts. 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.[119] 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 8.43% increase in Basic Education Funding for a total of $6,479,599. Towanda Area School District received the highest increase among the districts in Bradford County. The state Basic Education Funding to the district in 2008-09 was $5,767,640.73 Ninety Pennsylvania public school districts received a 2% increase. Muhlenberg School District in Berks County received a 22.31% increase in state basic education funding in 2009.[120] 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.[121] 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.[122][123]

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, Towanda Area School District applied for and received $340,187 in addition to all other state and federal funding. The district used the funding to provide full-day kindergarten and preschool for seven years.[124][125]

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. Towanda Area School District did not apply to participate in 2006-07, In 2007-08, the administration applied but was denied funding by the PDE. The district received $110,498 in 2008-09.[126] In Bradford County, the highest award was given to Troy Area School District which received $449,423 total funding. 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 $39,208.[127]

Literacy grant[edit]

Towanda Area School District was awarded a $681,372 competitive literacy grant. It is to be used to improve reading skills birth through 12th grade. The district was required to develop a lengthly literacy plan, which included outreach into the community. The funds come from a Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy grant, also referred to as the Keystones to Opportunity grant It is a five-year, competitive federal grant program designed to assist local education agencies in developing and implementing local comprehensive literacy plans. Of the 329 pre-applications by school districts reviewed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, School District was one of only 148 entities that were invited to submit a full application. In Bradford County, just one school districts was awarded funding for one year.[128] The funds must be used for teacher training, student screening and assessment, targeted interventions for students reading below grade level and research-based methods of improving classroom instruction and practice. Districts must hire literacy coaches. The coaches work with classroom teachers to enhance their literacy teaching skills. Pennsylvania was among six other states, out of the 35 that applied, to be awarded funding. Pennsylvania received $38 million through the federal program. The Department of Education reserved 5% of the grant for administration costs at the state level.

Federal Stimulus grant[edit]

The district received an extra $2,371,954 in ARRA - Federal Stimulus money to be used in specific programs like special education and meeting the academic needs of low-income students.[129][130] The funding was limited to the 2009-10 and 2010-2011 school years.[131] 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]

Towanda Area School District officials did not apply for the federal Race to the Top grant which would have provided nearly one million dollars in additional federal funding to improve student academic achievement.[132] 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.[133] 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.[134][135][136]

Common Cents state initiative[edit]

The School Board elected to participate in the Pennsylvania Department of Education Common Cents program.[137] 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.[138] After the review of the information, the district was not required to implement the recommended cost savings changes. The savings were projected to be between $100,000 and $200,000 per year by sharing administrative services with neighboring districts.[139]

Real estate taxes[edit]

Property tax rates in 2012-13 were set by the school board at 39.6800 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.[140] 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.[141] 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.[142] 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.[143]

  • 2011-12 - 39.2200 mills[144]
  • 2010-11 - 38.5800 mills[145]
  • 2009-10 - 37.1600 mills.[146]
  • 2008-09 - 37.1600 mills.[147]
  • 2007-08 - 36.0800 mills.[148]
  • 2006-07 - 34.9800 mills.[149]
  • 2005-06 - 33.9800 mills.[150]

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.[151] The average yearly property tax paid by Bradford County residents amounts to about 3.06% of their yearly income. Bradford County is ranked 817th of the 3143 United States counties for property taxes as a percentage of median income.[152]

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.[153] In June 2011, the Pennsylvania General Assembly eliminated six of the ten exceptions to the Act 1 Index.[154] 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.[155][156]

The School District Adjusted Index for the School District 2006-2007 through 2011-2012.[157]

  • 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%[158]
  • 2013-14 - 2.4%, Base 1.7%

For the 2012-13 budget year, Towanda Area School Board applied for an exception to exceed the Act 1 Index due to teacher pension costs. 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.[159]

For the 2011-12 school year, the Towanda Area School Board applied for two exceptions to exceed the Act 1 Index: special education costs and teacher pension costs. Each year, Towanda 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.[160]

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.[161]

Towanda Area School Board did not apply for any exceptions to exceed the Act 1 index for the budget in 2011.[162] For 2009-10 school budget, the board did not apply for exceptions to exceed the Index.[163] 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.[164]

Property tax relief[edit]

In 2012, Towanda Area School District approved homestead residents received $289.[165] In 2010, property tax relief for 2,603 approved residents of Towanda Area School District was set at $289.[166] In 2009, the Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Relief from gambling for Towanda Area School District was also $287 per approved permanent primary residence. In the district, 2,614 property owners applied for the tax relief. In Bradford County, the highest tax relief went to Sayre Area School District which was set at $347.[167] 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.[168] 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 some counties, less than 50% of eligible property owners applied for property tax relief in 2009. No data was available regarding Bradford County participation in the tax relief.[169]

Extracurriculars[edit]

The district offers a variety of clubs, activities and sports. Eligibility for participation is determined by school board policy.[170]

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.[171]

Towanda Area School District has a Pay to Participate policy for extracurriculars. Towanda Area School District Education Foundation made a donation of $6000 to cover the cost of the “Pay to Participate” fees during the 2011-2012 school year.

Sports[edit]

The district offers the following in 2012:

  • Baseball
  • Basketball Boys team and Girls team
  • Cross Country Boys and Girls
  • Football
  • Golf Boys and Girls
  • Soccer Boys team and Girls Team
  • Softball Girls
  • Swimming and Diving Boys and Girls
  • Tennis Boys and Girls
  • Track and Field Boys and Girls
  • Wrestling - Girls
  • Volleyball - Girls

In June 2010, the school district's fifth- and sixth-grade basketball program was transferred to the YMCA of Bradford County. Additionally, the Board eliminated paying for meals for students on trips to participate in athletic competitions and eliminated school district funding to send students to national competitions.

VoTech[edit]

In the junior and senior year, Towanda Area students may enroll in a vocational-technical course at the Northern Tier Career Center.

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