Austin Area School District

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Austin Area School District
Map of Potter County Pennsylvania School Districts.png
Address
138 Costello Avenue
Austin, Pennsylvania, Potter County, 16720-9601
United States
Information
School board 9 elected members
Superintendent Jerome Sasala, Acting Superintendent 2012
Administrator Mrs Peggy Derr, Business Manager[1]
Principal Kimberly Rees
Staff 17
Faculty 21.5 teachers[2]
Grades Preschool-12
Age 4 years old preschool to 21 years old special education
Pupils 198 students preschool-12th grade (2012)[3]
Kindergarten 19
Grade 1 13
Grade 2 10
Grade 3 12
Grade 4 10
Grade 5 10
Grade 6 13
Grade 7 11
Grade 8 23
Grade 9 23
Grade 10 17
Grade 11 17
Grade 12 19
Other Projected to be 207 pupils in 2020 [4]
Color(s) Red, Black
Mascot Panthers
Budget $4.21 million budget 2012-13 [5]

$3.7 million (2010-11)[6]

Per pupil spending $15,883 (2008)
Per pupil spending $20,119.88 (2010)
Website

The Austin Area School District is a rural public school district. It serves the Austin Boro as well as Keating, Portage, Sylvania and Wharton townships in Potter County, Pennsylvania. Austin Area School District encompasses approximately 228 square miles (590 km2). According to 2000 federal census data, it serves a resident population of 1,214 people. By 2010, the District served a resident population of 1,279 people. In 2009, the District residents’ per capita income was $14,405, while the median family income was $36,250.[7] In the Commonwealth, the median family income was $49,501 [8] and the United States median family income was $49,445, in 2010.[9]

According to District officials, in school year 2009-10, the Austin Area School District provided basic educational services to 225 pupils. It employed: 24 teachers, 11 full-time and part-time support personnel, and 2 administrators. Austin Area School District received more than $1.8 million in state funding in school year 2009-10. The District is part of the Seneca Highlands Intermediate Unit 9 which provides services for special education students, curriculum development and teacher training.

Austin Area School District operates Austin High School (7th–12th) and Austin Elementary School (preschool-6th). The school district campus is located in one building. According to its 2009 Academic Achievement report card 13 teachers were not Highly Qualified as is required by the NCLB law and Pennsylvania School Code. In Pennsylvania, a Highly Qualified teacher is one who: (1) holds full certification, (2) has at least a bachelor’s degree, (3) has completed a content area major, (4) has passed a content area test, and (5) has completed teacher education coursework.[10] In 2012, the Pennsylvania Auditor General Office completed an audit of the District which found serious certification deficiencies by professionals and other serious issues. The certification issues were reported to the Pennsylvania Department of Education.[11] In 2012, the District reported that in continued to employ the teachers who were "Non-Highly qualified.

Governance[edit]

Austin Area School District is governed by a 9-member school board that is elected to serve four-year terms, the Pennsylvania State Board of Education, the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Pennsylvania General Assembly.[12] The federal government controls programs it funds like Title I funding for low-income children in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and President George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind Act, which mandates that the district focus its federal funding resources on student reading and math skills and testing children one time a year to assess whether they are on grade level in reading and math.

The Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives Sunshine Review gave the school board and district administration an "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.[13]

Academic achievement[edit]

In 2012, Austin Area School District ranked 469th out of 498 Pennsylvania School districts by the Pittsburgh Business Times.[14] The ranking was based on student academic achievement as demonstrated on the last three years of the PSSAs for: reading, writing math and science.[15] 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. In 2013, the District was not ranked due to exceptionally low student enrollment.

  • 2011 - 438th [16]
  • 2008 - 473rd
  • 2007 – 475th out of 500 Pennsylvania school districts.[17]

District AYP status history[edit]

In 2012, Austin Area School District achieved AYP status.[18] In 2011, Austin Area School 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 Pennsylvania public school districts made AYP based on a calculated method called safe harbor, 8.2 percent on the growth model and 0.8 percent on a two-year average performance.[19] School District achieved AYP status each year from 2003 to 2010.[20]

Graduation rate[edit]

Austin Area School District reported a graduation rate of 88.89% in 2013. In 2012, Austin Area School District’s graduation rate was 94%.[21] In 2011, the District's graduation rate was 76%.[22] In 2010, the Pennsylvania Department of Education issued a new, 4-year cohort graduation rate. Austin Area Junior Senior High School's graduation rate was 80% for 2010.[23]

According to traditional graduation rate calculations
  • 2010 – 95% [24]
  • 2009 – 100% [25]
  • 2008 – 91%
  • 2007 – 91% [26]

High school[edit]

Austin Area Junior Senior High School is located at 138 Costello Avenue, Austin. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the school reported an enrollment of 110 pupils in grades 7th through 12th, with 41 pupils eligible for a federal free or reduced-price lunch. The school is a Title I school. The school employed 12 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 9:1.[27] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 18 classes were taught by teachers who were rated "Non‐Highly Qualified" under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.[28]

2013 School Performance Profile

Austin Area Junior Senior High School achieved 70.9 out of 100. The score reflects on grade level reading, writing, mathematics and science student achievement. In reading, 76.92% of the students were on grade level. In Mathematics, 79.49% of the students showed on grade level skills. In Science, 27.59% of the students demonstrated on grade level understanding. In writing, 83% of the 8th grade students showed on grade level skills through a writing sample which was evaluated by the state.[29]

AYP History

In 2012, Austin Area Junior Senior High School achieved AYP status. In 2011, Austin Area Junior Senior High School achieved AYP status.[30]

PSSA Results
11th Grade Reading
  • 2012 - 88% on grade level, (13% below basic). State - 67% of 11th graders are on grade level.[31]
  • 2011 - 73% (7% below basic). State - 69.1% [32]
  • 2010 – 62% (12% below basic). State - 67%
  • 2009 – 68% (40% below basic). State - 65% [33]
  • 2008 – 68% (14% below basic). State – 65%
  • 2007 – 61%, State – 65% [34]
11th Grade Math
  • 2012 - 93% on grade level (7% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 59% of 11th graders are on grade level.[35]
  • 2011 - 67% (13% below basic). State - 60.3% [36]
  • 2010 – 50% (25% below basic). State - 59% [37]
  • 2009 – 53% (33% below basic). State – 55% [38]
  • 2008 – 40% (23% below basic). State – 56% [39]
  • 2007 – 38%, State – 53%
11th Grade Science
  • 2012 - 50% on grade level (50% basic). State - 42% of 11th graders were on grade level.[40]
  • 2011 - 53% (18% below basic). State - 40% [41]
  • 2010 – 37% (6% below basic). State – 39%
  • 2009 – 40% (6% be;ow basic). State – 40%
  • 2008 – 40% (9% below basic). State – 39%[42]

Dual enrollment The high school does not offer the Pennsylvania dual enrollment program which permits students to earn deeply discounted college credits while still enrolled in high school. The program is offered through over 400 Pennsylvania school districts with the assistance of a state grant.

Graduation requirements[edit]

Among Pennsylvania's 500 public school districts, graduation requirements widely vary. The Austin Area School Board has determined type and number of credits a student must earn to graduate.

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.[43] Effective with the graduating class of 2017, the Pennsylvania Board of Education eliminated the state mandate that students complete a culminating project in order to graduate.[44]

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.[45][46][47] 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.[48] Individual student, school or district reports were not made public, although they were reported to district officials by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Students identified as having special needs and qualifying for an Individual Educational Program (IEP) may graduate by meeting the requirements of their IEP.

College remediation[edit]

According to a Pennsylvania Department of Education study released in January 2009, 13% of the Austin 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.[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]

In 2013, Austin Area School District students' average Verbal Average Score was 462.5. The Math average score was 489.17. The Writing average score was 440.83. The College Board reported that statewide scores were: 494 in reading, 504 in math and 482 in writing. The nation-wide SAT results were the same as in 2012.[51]

In 2012, 12 Austin Area School District students took the SAT exams. The District's Verbal Average Score was 473. The Math average score was 458. The Writing average score was 460. The statewide Verbal SAT exams results were: Verbal 491, Math 501, Writing 480. In the USA, 1.65 million students took the exams achieving scores: Verbal 496, Math 514, Writing 488. According to the College Board the maximum score on each section was 800, and 360 students nationwide scored a perfect 2,400.

In 2011, 11 Austin Area School District students took the SAT exams. The District's Verbal Average Score was 443. The Math average score was 460. The Writing average score was 419.[52] Pennsylvania ranked 40th among states with SAT scores: Verbal - 493, Math - 501, Writing - 479.[53] 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.[54]

Eighth grade[edit]

PSSA Results
8th Grade Science
  • 2012 - not reported due to less than 10 pupils. State - 59%
  • 2011 - 50% (19% below basic). State – 58.3%
  • 2010 – 68% (% below basic). State – 57%
  • 2009 – 71% (75% below basic). State – 55%[57]
  • 2008 – 40%, State – 52%

Seventh grade[edit]

Elementary School[edit]

Austin Area Elementary School is located at 138 Costello Avenue, Austin. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2011, the school reported an enrollment of 88 pupils in grades preschool through 6th, with 42 pupils receiving a federal free or reduced-price lunch due to family poverty. The school employed 10 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 8:1.[59] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 10 classes were taught by teachers who were rated "Non‐Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind.[60] Austin Area Elementary School provides full day kindergarten. In 2013, enrollment was 122 pupils preschool through 6th grade.

2013 School Performance Profile

Austin Area Elementary School achieved a score of 75.6 out of 100. The score reflects on grade level: reading, science, writing and mathematics achievement. In 2012-13, only 64% of the students were reading on grade level in grades 3rd through 5th. In 3rd grade, 76.92% of the pupils were reading on grade level. In math, 76% were on grade level (3rd-5th grades). In 4th grade science, 92.31% of the pupils demonstrated on grade level understanding. Only 53.85% of the 5th grade pupils demonstrated on grade level writing skills.[61]

AYP History

In 2011 and 2012, Austin Area Elementary School achieved AYP status.[62]

PSSA results
4th Grade Science
  • 2012 - 83% (0% below basic). State - 82%
  • 2011 – less than 10 pupils results not reported
  • 2010 – 90%, State – 81%
  • 2009 – 90%, State – 83%
  • 2008 – 9 pupils – results not reported

PreK Counts[edit]

In 2009, Austin Area School District received state funding to offer a taxpayer subsidize preschool program.[68][69] Children who are at least age three and younger than the entry age of kindergarten are eligible to apply. Priority enrollment for PA Pre-K Counts is designed for children who are at risk of school failure, either because of income (300 percent of the federal poverty level, or a family of four earning $63,600 per year), language (English is not your first language), cultural or special needs issues.

Special education[edit]

In December 2011, the Austin Area School District administration reported that 46 pupils or 20% of the district's pupils received Special Education services, with 47% of the identified students having a specific learning disability. In December 2010, the Austin Area School District administration reported that 38 pupils or 19% of the district's pupils received Special Education services, with 63% of the identified students having a specific learning disability.[70] The District reported that in December 2009 21% of pupils received special education services. This was significantly higher than the state rate of 15% of pupils. The District used services provided by the IU 12 to meet the needs of these students.[71] Total enrollment in the district was reported at 193 pupils in 2009. In 2008 enrollment was 220 pupils in the district.

Special education services in the Commonwealth are provided to students from ages three years to 21 years old. In the 2010-11 school year, the total student enrollment was more than 1.78 million students with approximately 275,000 students eligible for special education services. Among these students 18,959 were identified with mental retardation and 21,245 students with autism.[72] The largest group of stduents are identified as Specific Learning Disabilities 126,026 students (46.9 percent) and Speech or Language Impairments with 43,542 students (16.2 percent).

In 2010, the state of Pennsylvania provided $1,026,815,000 for Special Education services. This funding is in addition to the state's basic education per pupil funding, as well as, all other state and federal funding.[73] The Special Education funding structure is through the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) funds and state appropriations. IDEA funds are appropriated to the state on an annual basis and distributed through intermediate units (IUs) to school districts, while state funds are distributed directly to the districts. Total funds that are received by school districts are calculated through a formula. The Pennsylvania Department of Education oversees four appropriations used to fund students with special needs: Special Education; Approved Private Schools; Pennsylvania Chartered Schools for the Deaf and Blind; and Early Intervention. The Pennsylvania Special Education funding system assumes that 16% of the district’s students receive special education services. It also assumes that each student’s needs accrue the same level of costs.[74] The state requires each public school district and charter school to have a three-year special education plan to meet the unique needs of its special education students.[75] Over identification of students, in order to increase state funding, has been an issue in the Commonwealth. Some districts have more than 20% of its students receiving special education services while others have 10% supported through special education.[76] In 2012, the Obama Administration's US Department of Education issued a directive that schools include students with disabilities in extracurricular activities, including sports.[77]

The Austin Area School District received a $131,703 supplement for special education services in 2010.[78] For the 2011-12, 2012–13 and 2013-14 school years, all Pennsylvania public school districts received the same level of funding for special education that they received in 2010-11. This level funding is provided regardless of changes in the number of pupils who need special education services and regardless of the level of services the respective students required.[79][80]

Gifted education[edit]

The District Administration reported that none 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.[81] 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.[82][83]

Wellness policy[edit]

Austin Area School Board established a district wellness policy in 2006.[84] 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." Most districts identified the superintendent and school foodservice director as responsible for ensuring local wellness policy implementation.[85]

The legislation placed the responsibility of developing a wellness policy at the local level so the individual needs of each district can be addressed. According to the requirements for the Local Wellness Policy, school districts must set goals for nutrition education, physical activity, campus food provision, and other school-based activities designed to promote student wellness. Additionally, districts were required to involve a broad group of individuals in policy development and to have a plan for measuring policy implementation. Districts were offered a choice of levels of implementation for limiting or prohibiting low nutrition foods on the school campus. In final implementation these regulations prohibit some foods and beverages on the school campus.[86] The Pennsylvania Department of Education required the district to submit a copy of the policy for approval.

The District offers a free school breakfast and free or reduced-price lunch to children in low income families. All students attending the school can eat breakfast and lunch. Children from families with incomes at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty level are provided a breakfast and lunch at no cost to the family. Children from families with incomes between 130 and 185 percent of the federal poverty level can be charged no more than 30 cents per breakfast. A foster child whose care and placement is the responsibility of the State or who is placed by a court with a caretaker household is eligible for both a free breakfast and a free lunch. Runaway, homeless and Migrant Youth are also automatically eligible for free meals.[87] The meals are partially funded with federal dollars through the United States Department of Agriculture.[88]

In 2013, the USDA issued new restrictions to foods in public schools. The rules apply to foods and beverages sold on all public school district campuses during the day. They limit vending machine snacks to a maximum of 200 calories per item. Additionally, all snack foods sold at school must meet competitive nutrient standards, meaning they must have fruits, vegetables, dairy or protein in them or contain at least 10 percent of the daily value of fiber, calcium, potassium, and Vitamin D.[89]

Highmark Healthy High 5 grants[edit]

In 2011, the Austin Area School District received funding through a Highmark Healthy High 5 grant. Austin Area High School received $10,000 for an Austin Outdoor Excursion program.[90] Beginning in 2006, Highmark Foundation engaged in a 5 year, $100 million program to promote lifelong healthy behaviors in children and adolescents through local nonprofits and schools.

The District participated in Highmark Healthy High 5 Health eTools for Schools, which enabled mobile data collection of pertinent health and physical fitness screening data on students K-12 in a database held by InnerLink, Inc. in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Health eTools for Schools also provided interdisciplinary research-based curriculum in nutrition, physical education and physical activity to participating districts. The program was discontinued in 2013.[91]

Budget[edit]

Pennsylvania public school districts budget and expend funds according to procedures mandated by the General Assembly and the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE). An annual operating budget is prepared by school district administrative officials. A uniform form is furnished by the PDE and submitted to the board of school directors for approval prior to the beginning of each fiscal year on July 1.

Under Pennsylvania’s Taxpayer Relief Act, Act 1 of the Special Session of 2006, all school districts of the first class A, second class, third class and fourth class must adopt a preliminary budget proposal. The proposal must include estimated revenues and expenditures and the proposed tax rates. This proposed budget must be considered by the Board no later than 90 days prior to the date of the election immediately preceding the fiscal year. The preliminary budget proposal must also be printed and made available for public inspection at least 20 days prior to its adoption. The board of school directors may hold a public hearing on the budget, but are not required to do so. The board must give at least 10 days’ public notice of its intent to adopt the final budget according to Act 1 of 2006.[92]

In 2011, the average teacher salary in Austin Area School District was $49,600 a year, while the cost of the benefits teachers receive was $17,036 per employee, for a total annual average teacher compensation of $56,637.[93]

In 2009, the Austin Area School District reported employing 27 teachers and administrators, with a median salary of $52,958 and a top salary of $109,175.[94] The teacher’s work day is 7 hours 15 minutes with a 30-minute duty-free lunch period with 185 days in the contract year. Teachers receive extra pay for extra duties done. Additionally, the teachers receive a defined benefit pension, health insurance, professional development reimbursement, 2 paid personal days which accumulate, 10 paid sick days, 2 paid emergency leave days, 5 paid bereavement days, and other benefits.[95]

In 2007, the average teacher salary in the district was $45,373 for 180 days worked. Austin Area is ranked fourth in Potter County for average teacher salary in 2007.[96] 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.[97] Additionally, the teachers receive a defined benefit pension, health insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance professional development reimbursement, paid personal days, 10 paid sick days, and many other benefits.[98]

Austin Area ranked near the top in administrative costs per pupil, in Pennsylvania in 2008 at $1,620 per pupil. This was the 3rd highest administrative spending in 2008 for the 501 school districts in the state. The lowest administrative cost per pupil in Pennsylvania was $398 per pupil.[99] In July 2007 awarded a five-year contract to Matthew J. Hutcheson to serve as district superintendent. His initial salary was set at $86,000 (2007) to rise to $99,500 (2012). He also received an extensive benefits package which included: $1,000 payment on departure for each year served, health insurance, life insurance, payment for conferences and more.[100]

Per pupil spending In 2008, Austin Area School District reported spending $15,863 per pupil which was 44th in the state out of 500 school districts.[101] In 2010 the per pupil spending at Austin Area School District had increased to $20,119.88 [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]

Among the fifty states, Pennsylvania’s total per pupil revenue (including all sources) ranked 11th at $15,023 per student, in 2008-09.[106] Pennsylvania’s total revenue per pupil rose to $16,186 ranking 9th in the nation in 2011.[107]

Reserves In 2008, Austin Area School District reported a balance of zero in its unreserved-designated fund. The unreserved-undesignated fund balance was reported as $509,472.[108] In 2010, Austin Area Administration reported an increase to $622,695 in the unreserved-undesignated fund balance. In 2012, the District reported $542,474 in reserves.[109] Pennsylvania public school district reserve funds are divided into two categories – designated and undesignated. The undesignated funds are not committed to any planned project. Designated funds and any other funds, such as capital reserves, are allocated to specific projects. School districts are required by state law to keep 5 percent of their annual spending in the undesignated reserve funds to preserve bond ratings. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, from 2003 to 2010, as a whole, Pennsylvania school districts amassed nearly $3 billion in reserved funds.[110]

Tuition Students who live in the District's attendance area may choose to attend one of Pennsylvania's 157 public charter schools. A student living in a neighboring public school district or a foreign exchange student may seek admission to Austin Area School District. For these cases, the Pennsylvania Department of Education sets an annual tuition rate for each school district. It is the amount the public school district pays to a charter school for each resident student that attends the charter and it is the amount a nonresident student's parents must pay to attend the Austin Area School District's schools. The 2012 tuition rates are Elementary School - $13,417.68, High School - $13,735.17.[111]

Audit In a 2012 audit of the Austin Area District, the administration was cited by the Pennsylvania Auditor General for continuing a practice of permitting non-resident students to attend The District's schools without paying full tuition, as required by the Pennsylvania School Code. The practice has cost the District tens of thousands over the previous 6 years.[112]

Austin Area School District is funded by a combination of: a local earned income tax, a property tax, a real estate transfer tax, coupled with substantial funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the federal government. Grants can provide an opportunity to supplement school funding without raising local taxes. Interest earnings on accounts also provide nontax income to the District. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, pension income and Social Security income are exempted from state personal income tax and local earned income tax, regardless of the level of the individual’s personal wealth.[113] The average Pennsylvania public school teacher pension in 2011 exceeds $60,000 a year plus they receive federal Social Security benefits: both are free of Pennsylvania state income tax and local income tax which funds local public schools.[114]

State basic education funding[edit]

For the 2013-14 school year, Austin Area School District received $1,418,682 in Pennsylvania Basic Education Funding, which is $260,363 more than its 2012-13 state BEF to the District. This 22.5% increase was the greatest percentage increase of BEF funding awarded among all 500 Pennsylvania public school districts. The District will also receive $18,638 in Accountability Block Grant funding to focus on academic achievement and level funding for special education services. The Superintendent acknowledge the District was in financial trouble that required exceptional state intervention to "remain afloat".[115] The District has the option of applying for several other state and federal grants to increase revenues. The Commonwealth’s budget increased Basic Education Funding statewide by $123 million to over $5.5 billion. Most of Pennsylvania’s 500 public school districts received an increase of Basic Education Funding in a range of 0.9% to 4%. Eight public school districts received exceptionally high funding of 10% to 16%.[116] The state also funded the PSERS (Pennsylvania school employee pension fund) with $1,017,000,000 and Social Security payments for school employees of $495 million.[117]

For the 2012-13 school year, the Austin Area School District received $1,176,932.[118] The Governor's Executive Budget for 2012-2013 included $9.34 billion for kindergarten through 12th grade public education, including $5.4 billion in basic education funding, which was an increase of $49 million over the 2011-12 budget. In addition, the Commonwealth provided $100 million for the Accountability Block grant program. Austin Area School District received $18,638. The state also provided a $544.4 million payment for School Employees’ Social Security and $856 million for School Employees’ Retirement fund called PSERS.[119]

In 2011-12, the Austin Area School District received a $1,158,294 allocation of state Basic Education Funding.[120][121] Additionally, the School District received $18,638 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.[122] 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.[123] In 2010, the district reported that 882 students received free or reduced-price lunches, due to the family meeting the federal poverty level.[124]

In the 2010–11 budget year, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provided Austin Area School District a 2% increase in Basic Education funding for a total funding of $1,205,189. The majority of Potter County districts received the base 2% increase. The highest increase in Potter County went to Coudersport Area School District which received a 5.50% increase. The largest increase in Pennsylvania, went to Kennett Consolidated School District in Chester County which received a 23.65% increase in state Basic Education Funding in 2010.[125] The state's hold harmless policy regarding state basic education funding continued where each district received at least the same amount as it received the prior school year, even when enrollment had significantly declined. The amount of increase each school district received was set by Governor Edward Rendell and then Secretary of Education Gerald Zahorchak, as a part of the state budget proposal given each February. This was the second year of Governor Rendell’s policy to fund some Pennsylvania public school districts at a far greater rate than others.[126]

In the 2009–10 budget year, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provided a 2% increase in Basic Education funding for a total of $1,181,460. The majority of Potter County districts received a 2% increase. Ninety (90) Pennsylvania public school districts received the base 2% increase. In Pennsylvania, more than 15 school districts received Basic Education Funding increases in excess of 10% in 2009. Muhlenberg School District in Berks County received the highest with a 22.31% increase in funding. The state's Basic Education Funding to the Austin Area School District in 2008–09 was $1,158,294.04[127] The amount of increase each school district received was determined by then Governor Edward G. Rendell and the Secretary of Education, Gerald Zahorchak, through the allocation set in the state budget proposal made in February each year.[128] 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.[129][130]

The state Basic Education Funding to the District in 2008-09 was $1,158,294.04. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 124 District students received free or reduced-price lunches due to low family income in the 2007–2008 school year.[131]

Accountability Block Grants[edit]

Beginning in 2004-05, 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, and for professional development to improve their instruction. For 2010-11, the district applied for and received $50,588 in addition to all other state and federal funding. The district uses the funding to provide full-day kindergarten and reduced class size K-3rd grade.[132][133]

Literacy grant[edit]

Austin Area School District was awarded a $276,518 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 Potter County 1 school district was awarded funding for the first year.[134] 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.

Classrooms for the Future grant[edit]

The Classroom for the Future state program provided districts with hundreds of thousands of extra state funding to buy laptop computers for each core curriculum high school class (English, Science, History, Math) and paid for teacher training to optimize the computers use. The program was funded from 2006–2009. Austin Area School District applied to participate in 2006–07, but was denied funding The district received $58,944 in 2007–08 and $35,439 in 2008–09 for a total of $94,433 in state funding.[135]

Other grants[edit]

Austin Area School District did not participate in: PA DEP Environmental Education grants, Science Its Elementary grants, Education Assistance Grants, Pennsylvania Hybrid Learning grants nor the federal 21st Century learning grants.

Federal Stimulus grant[edit]

Austin Area School district received $241,010 in 2009 in ARRA – Federal Stimulus money to be used in specific programs like special education and meeting the academic needs of low-income students. These dollars were in addition to all regular state and federal funding to the district.[136] The funds were limited to the 2009–10 and 2010-2011 school years. 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]

Austin Area School District officials did not apply for the Race to the Top federal grant which would have brought the district hundreds of thousands of additional federal dollars for improving student academic achievement.[137] 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.[138] 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.[139]

Common Cents state initiative[edit]

Austin Area School Board elected to not participate in the Pennsylvania Department of Education Common Cents program. The program called for the state to audit the district, at no cost to local taxpayers, to identify ways the district could save tax dollars.[140] After the review of the information, the district was not required to implement the recommended cost savings changes.

Real estate taxes[edit]

Property tax rates were set by the Austin Area School Board at 44.1300 mills in 2013.[141] A mill is $1 of tax for every $1,000 of a property's assessed value. 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.[142] 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.[143] Irregular property reassessments have become a serious issue in the commonwealth as it creates a significant disparity in taxation within a community and across a region.

The average yearly property tax paid by Potter County residents amounts to about 2.95% of their yearly income. Potter County ranked 624h out of the 3143 United States counties for property taxes as a percentage of median income.[152] According to a report prepared by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the total real estate taxes collected by all school districts in Pennsylvania rose from $6,474,133,936 in 1999-00 to $10,438,463,356 in 2008-09 and to $11,153,412,490 in 2011.[153] 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%).[154]

Act 1 Adjusted index[edit]

The Act 1 of 2006 Index regulates the rates at which each school district can raise property taxes in Pennsylvania. Districts are not allowed to raise taxes above that index unless they allow voters to vote by referendum, or they seek an exception from the state Department of Education. The base index for the 2010–2011 school year is 1.4 percent, but it can be adjusted higher, depending on a number of factors, such as local 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, increasing rising health care 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.[155] In June 2011, the Pennsylvania General Assembly eliminated six of the ten exceptions to the Act 1 Index.[156] 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.[157][158]

The School District Adjusted Index for the Austin Area School District 2006–2007 through 2011–2012.[159]

For the 2013-14 budget year, Austin Area School Board did not apply for exceptions to exceed the Act 1 Index. For 2013-2014, 311 Pennsylvania public school districts adopted a resolution certifying that tax rates would not be increased above their index; 171 school districts adopted a preliminary budget leaving open the option of exceeded the Index limit. For the exception for pension costs, 89 school districts received approval to exceed the Index in full while others received a partial approval of their request. For special education costs, 75 districts received approval to exceed the tax limit. For the exception for pension costs, 169 school districts received approval to exceed the Index. Eleven districts received an approval for grandfathered construction debts.[165]

For the 2012-13 budget year, Austin Area School Board also 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.[166]

For the 2011-12 school year, the Austin Area School Board did not apply for an exception to exceed the Act 1 Index. Each year, the Austin 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.[167]

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.[168]

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.[169] In 2010, the Austin Area School Board did not seek any exceptions and budgeted within the Act 1 Index limit.[170]

Property tax relief[edit]

In 2010, the state set the Austin Area School District's property tax relief at $324 for 409 approved homesteads and farmsteads.[171]

In 2009, the Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Relief from gambling for the Austin Area School District was $358 per approved permanent primary residence. In the district, 370 property owners applied for the tax relief. The relief was subtracted from the total annual school property tax bill. Property owners apply for the relief through the county Treasurer's office. Farmers can qualify for a farmstead exemption on building used for agricultural purposes. The farm must be at least 10 contiguous acres and must be the primary residence of the owner. Farmers can qualify for both the homestead exemption and the farmstead exemption. In 2009, 79% of Potter County property owners applied for the property tax relief.[172]

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, so people who make substantially more than $35,000 may still qualify for a rebate. Individuals must apply annually for the rebate.

According to the Tax Foundation, Pennsylvania ranked 11th in the U.S. in 2008 in terms of property taxes paid as a percentage of home value (1.34%) and 12th in the country in terms of property taxes as a percentage of income (3.55%).[173]

Enrollment[edit]

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Austin Area's total enrollment K-12 is 181 students. There were 23 students in the Class of 2009. The senior class of 2010 had 17 students. Enrollment in Austin Area School District is projected by the Pennsylvania Department of Education to continue to decline to a district wide enrollment of 147 students in 2017.[174] The district ranks 3rd out of 500 public school districts in the Commonwealth for spending on administration.[175]

A study of Pennsylvania public school spending, conducted by Standard and Poor's, examined the consolidation of Austin Area School District Administration with neighboring Galeton Area School District. The study found that consolidation of the administrations would achieve substantial administrative cost savings of over $1 million. The study also examined administrative consolidation of Austin Area School District with Smethport Area School District. It found a savings of $632,105.[176]

According to a report by The Center for Rural Pennsylvania, rural Pennsylvania public school enrollment has declined by 8 percent since 2000. The most significant enrollment decline was in western Pennsylvania, where rural school districts experienced a 16 percent decline. More than 40 percent of elementary schools and more than 60 percent of secondary schools in western Pennsylvania are projected to experience significant enrollment decreases (15 percent or greater). From 2000 to 2009, Pennsylvania experienced a decline of over 50,000 pupils statewide.[177] In March 2011, the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants released a report finding that the state would save hundreds of millions of tax dollars, by cutting the number of school administrations in half through consolidation, with no impact on programs offered to students.[178]

Pennsylvania has one of the highest numbers of school districts in the nation. In Pennsylvania, 80% of the school districts serve student populations under 5,000, and 40% serve less than 2,000. According to a 2009 school district administration consolidation proposal by Governor Edward Rendell, the excessive administrative overhead dollars could be redirected to improve lagging academic achievement, to enrich the academic programs or to reduce property taxes.[179] Consolidation of two central administrations into one would not require the closing of any local schools.[180] In a survey of 88 superintendents of small districts, 42% of the 49 respondents stated that they thought consolidation would save money without closing any schools.[181]

School safety and bullying[edit]

Austin Area School District administration reported there were one incident of bullying in the district in 2012.[182] Each year the school safety data is reported by the district to the Safe School Center which publishes the reports online.

The Austin Area School Board has not provided the district's antibully policy online. 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.[183] 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.[184][185]

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.[186]

Extracurriculars[edit]

Austin Area School District offers a variety of extracurriculars, including clubs, activities and extensive sports program. By Pennsylvania law, all K-12 aged students in the district, including those who attend a private nonpublic school, cyber charter school, charter school and those homeschooled, are eligible to participate in the extracurricular programs, including all athletics. They must meet the same eligibility rules as the students enrolled in the district's schools.[187]

Athletics[edit]

Varsity:

Boys
  • Basketball – Class A
  • Golf – Class AA
Girls
  • Basketball – Class A
  • Softball – Class A
  • Volleyball – Class A
Junior High School
  • Boys - Basketball
  • Girls - Basketball, Volleyball
  • According to PIAA directory July 2012 [188]

Cooperative Sports The district has a cooperative sports agreement with the Coudersport Area School District in the following sports:

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  185. ^ Pennsylvania Department of Education (2012). "Bullying, Hazing, and Harassment Resources". 
  186. ^ Pennsylvania State Board of Education (January 11, 2003). "Pennsylvania Academic Standards Health, Safety and Physical Education". 
  187. ^ Home-Schooled, Charter School Children Can Participate in School District Extracurricular Activities, Pennsylvania Office of the Governor Press Release, November 10, 2005
  188. ^ Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletics Association (2012). "PIAA School Directory". 

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