Benton Area School District

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Benton Area School District
Map of Columbia County Pennsylvania School Districts.png
Address
600 Green Acres Road
Benton, Pennsylvania, Columbia County 17814
United States
Information
Type Public
Superintendent

Dr. Brian Christopher Cooper (contract August 2015 to August 10, 2018)[1]
Joseph Casarella acting Superintendent effective July 1, 2014, Salary $60,000[2]

Penny Lenig-Zerby contract December 2012 – December 6, 2015
Administrator

Patti Leighow, Business Manager
Lindsey Blaire Rado, Director of Special Education effective July 1, 2015
April Farrell, former Director of Special Education
Rick Long, Long, Director of Buildings and Grounds
Angela Doty, Director of Food Service
Brady Hess, Director of Technology
Jessica Seward, Employee Service Coordinator salary $32,000[3]

Bill Pasukinis, Athletic Director
Principal Coleen Genovese, MSHS
Principal Robert Cashman, Appleman ES
Staff 36 (2014), 54 (2010)
Faculty

57 teachers (2013)[4]

65 teachers (2011)[5]
Grades K–12
Age 5 years old to 21 years old for special education students
Pupils

674 pupils (2016)[6]
697 pupils (2015)[7]
697 pupils (2014)[8]
707 pupils (2013)[9]
677 pupils (2010)[10]
711 pupils (2009–2010)[11]

771 pupils (2006)
 • Kindergarten 50 (2014),[12] 52 (2012),[13] 53 (2010)
 • Grade 1 81 (2014), 62 (2012), 57 (2010)
 • Grade 2 51 (2014), 43 (2012), 52 (2010)
 • Grade 3 59 (2014), 59 (2012), 56 (2010)
 • Grade 4 41 (2014), 56 (2012), 52 (2010)
 • Grade 5 64 (2014), 60 (2012), 52 (2010)
 • Grade 6 58 (2014), 60 (2012), 57 (2010)
 • Grade 7 63 (2014), 57 (2012), 66 (2010)
 • Grade 8 60 (2014), 56 (2012), 50 (2010)
 • Grade 9 48 (2014), 53 (2012), 53
 • Grade 10 40 (2014), 50 (2012), 52
 • Grade 11 53 (2014), 45 (2012), 55
 • Grade 12 49 (2014), 52 (2012), 56 (2010)
 • Grade 13 17 (2010)
 • Other Enrollment projected to be 700 in 2020 [14]
Mascot Tigers
Budget

$10,759,700 (2010–11)
$10,731,840 (2012-13)
$10,421,325 (2013-14)
$10,869,209 (2014-15)[15]
$11,727,997 (2015-16)[16]

$12,131.065 (2016-17)[17]
Per pupil spending $11,734 (2008)
Per pupil spending $14,318.63 (2010)
Per pupil spending $14,081.91 (2013)
Website

The Benton Area School District is a diminutive, rural, public school district. Benton Area School District serves the boroughs of Benton and Stillwater and Benton Township, Fishing Creek Township, Jackson Township and Sugarloaf Township in Columbia County, Pennsylvania. The District encompasses approximately 97 square miles (250 km2). According to 2000 federal census data, it served a resident population of 5,260. By 2010, the District's population declined to 5,231 people.[18] It is one of eight public school districts operating in Columbia County and is one of the 500 public school districts of Pennsylvania in 2016.

According to the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, 30.6% of the District's pupils lived at 185% or below the Federal Poverty level as shown by their eligibility for the federal free or reduced price school meal programs in 2012.[19] The per capita income of residents was $16,915 in 2009, while the median family income was $40,669.[20] In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the median family income was $49,501 [21] and the United States median family income was $49,445, in 2010.[22] The educational attainment levels for the Benton Area School District population (25 years old and over) were 85.6% high school graduates and 15.9% college graduates.[23] It encompasses 96.8 square miles (251 km2).

According to District officials, in school year 2007–08, the Benton Area School District provided basic educational services to 751 pupils, while employing 68 teachers, 38 full-time and part-time support personnel, and nine administrators. Per district officials, in school year 2009–10, the Benton Area School District provided basic educational services to 705 pupils. It employed 70 teachers, 40 full-time and part-time support personnel, and seven administrators. Benton Area School District received more than $4.6 million in state funding for school year 2009–10. By 2011-12 Benton Area School District had an enrollment of 712 pupils. It employed: 58 teachers, 27 full-time and part-time support personnel, and six (6) administrators during the 2011-12 school year. The District received $5,078,352 in state funding in the 2011-12 school year.

The Benton Area School District operates two schools: Benton Middle/Senior High School (7th–12th grades) and L.R. Appleman Elementary School (K–6th). Benton Area High School students may choose to attend Columbia-Montour Area Vocational-Technical School for training in the vocational trades. The Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit 16 (CSIU16) provides the district with a wide variety of services like specialized education for disabled students and hearing, speech and visual disability services and professional development for staff and faculty.

Teacher evaluation study[edit]

In 2011, Benton Area School District agreed to participate in a pilot program to develop a new way to evaluate teachers that, in part, takes into account student achievement. Two CSIU16 school districts are participating.[24] The pilot program had 104 K–12 entities, including nine career and technical centers, nine charter schools and nine intermediate units. Beginning in January 2012, the participating schools will use the new evaluation method and provide feedback to the Department of Education. This new evaluation was not used to determine an educator's official 2011–12 professional performance assessment.

Governance[edit]

The Benton Area 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.[25] 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 (renamed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in December 2015) which mandates the district focus its resources on student success in acquiring reading and math skills.[26] The school board is required by state law to post a financial report on the district in its website by March of each school year.[27] Benton Area School District failed to comply with 2015-16 and 3016-17 budget info.[28]

The Superintendent and Business Manager are appointed by the school board. The Superintendent is the chief administrative officer with overall responsibility for all aspects of operations, including education and finance. The Business Manager is responsible for budget and financial operations. Neither of these officials are voting members of the School Board. The School Board enters into individual employment contracts for these positions. In Pennsylvania, public school districts are required to give 150 days notice to the Superintendent regarding renewal of the employment contract.[29] Pursuant to Act 141 of 2012 which amended the Pennsylvania School Code, all school districts that have hired superintendents on/after the fall of 2012 are required to develop objective performance standards and post them on the district's website.[30]

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.[31]

Academic achievement[edit]

In October 2015, Pennsylvania Auditor General DiPasquale reported that one school in the District was among the 561 academically challenged schools that have been overlooked by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.[32] Benton Middle-Senior High School was on the list.[33] He also reported the Pennsylvania Department of Education failed to take any action to remediate the poorly performing schools to raise student academic achievement or to provide them with targeted professional assistance.[34]

Statewide ranking

In 2016, Benton Area School District ranked 233rd out of 493 Pennsylvania public school districts, by the Pittsburgh Business Times.[35] The ranking is based on the last 3 years of student academic achievement as demonstrated by PSSAs results in: reading, writing, math and science and the three Keystone Exams (literature, Algebra 1, Biology I) in high school.[36] Three school districts were excluded because they do not operate high schools (Saint Clair Area School District, Midland Borough School District, Duquesne City School District). The PSSAs are given to all children in grades 3rd through 8th. Adapted PSSA examinations are given to children in the special education programs. Writing exams were given to children in 5th and 8th grades.

Overachievers ranking

In 2013, the Pittsburgh Business Times reported an Overachievers Ranking for 498 Pennsylvania school districts. Benton Area School District ranked 226th. The paper 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."[44]

  • 2012 - 173rd
  • 2010 - 142nd
  • 2009 - 139th

In 2009, the academic achievement, of the students in the Benton Area School District, was in the 58th percentile among all 500 Pennsylvania school districts Scale (0–99; 100 is state best)[45]

District AYP status history[edit]

In 2012, Benton Area School District achieved AYP status under the Federal No Child Left Behind Act.[46] In 2011, Benton 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 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.[47] Benton Area School District achieved AYP status each year from 2004 to 2009, while in 2003 Benton Area was in Warning status due to lagging student achievement.[48]

Graduation rate[edit]

In 2016, Benton Area School District graduation rate was 100%.[49]

  • 2015 - 95%[50]
  • 2014 - 100%[51]
  • 2013 - 95.83%.[52]
  • 2012 and 2011 - 98%[53]
  • 2010 - 98%, the Pennsylvania Department of Education issued a new, 4-year cohort graduation rate.[54]
Former AYP graduation rate

High school[edit]

Benton Middle-Senior High School is located at 400 Park St, Benton. In 2014, enrollment had declined to 295 pupils grades 7th through 12th. In 2013, enrollment was 313 pupils in grades 7th through12, with 26% of pupils eligible for a federal free or reduced price lunch due to the family meeting the federal poverty level. Additionally, 17.25% of its pupils received special education services and 6% of pupils were identified as gifted. The school employed 34 teachers.[59] Per the PA Department of Education, 100% of the teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the school reported an enrollment of 341 pupils in grades 7th through 12th, with 146 pupils eligible for a federal free or reduced-price lunch. The school employed 33.5 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 10:1.[60] Per a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of its teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind.[61]

2016 School Performance Profile

SPP 72 out of 100 points. Benton Junior Senior High School Keystone Exams mandated testing results were: 84% of students were on grade level in reading.literature and 89% of students demonstrated on grade level in Algebra I. In Biology I, 94% of pupils demonstrated on grade level science understanding at the end of the Biology course.[62] The requirement that pupils pass the Keystone Exams in reading, algebra I and bIology I in order to graduate was postponed until 2019 by the Pennsylvania General Assembly because less than 60% of 12 grade pupils statewide would have been eligible for graduation from high school due to failing one or more Keystone Exams.[63] Fifty-four percent of the 2,676 public schools in Pennsylvania achieved a passing score of 70 or better.[64]

Additionally, the PSSA mandated testing results were: 70% of students in 8th grade were on grade level in reading, while just 23% of students demonstrated on grade level in mathematics. In science, 77% of eighth grade pupils demonstrated on grade level science understanding.[65] In 7th grade, 60% of pupils were on grade level in reading, while just 24% demonstrated on grade level math skills.

2015 School Performance Profile

The PDE reported that 67% of the High School's students were on grade level in reading/literature. In Algebra 1, 61% of students showed on grade level skills at the end of the course. In Biology I, 65% demonstrated on grade level science understanding at the end of the course.[66] Statewide, 53 percent of schools with an eleventh grade achieved an academic score of 70 or better. Five percent of the 2,033 schools with 11th grade were scored at 90 and above; 20 percent were scored between 80 and 89; 28 percent between 70 and 79; 25 percent between 60 and 69 and 22 percent below 60. The Keystone Exam results showed: 73 percent of students statewide scored at grade-level in English, 64 percent in Algebra I and 59 percent in biology.[67][68]

The PDE also reported that 61% of 8th grade students at Middle School students were on grade level in reading on the PSSAs given in April 2015. In math/Algebra 1, 20% of 8th grade students showed on grade level skills. In science, 75% of the school's 8th graders demonstrated on grade level science understanding. No eighth grade writing scores were reported. In 7th grade, 66% were on grade level in reading, while 30% showed on grade level math skills.[69] Statewide 58% of eighth (8th) graders were on grade level in reading, while 29% demonstrated on grade level math skills. Pennsylvania 7th graders were 58% on grade level in reading and 33% demonstrated on grade level math skills.[70]

2014 School Performance Profile

Benton Area Middle/High School achieved 69.4 out of 100. Reflects on grade level reading, mathematics and science achievement. In reading/literature - 79% were on grade level. In Algebra 1, 79.8% showed on grade level skills. In Biology, 65.9% demonstrated on grade level science understanding at the end of the course. Eighth grades were tested in writing, with 73% showed on grade level writing skills.[71][72] Statewide, the percentage of high school students who scored proficient and advanced in Algebra I increased to 39.7% to 40.1%. The percentage of high school students who scored proficient and advanced in reading/literature declined to 52.5%. The percentage of high school students who scored proficient and advanced in biology improved from 39.7% to 41.4%.[73]

2013 School Performance Profile

Benton Junior Senior High School achieved 72.7 out of 100. Reflects on grade level reading, mathematics and science achievement. In reading/literature - 77% were on grade level. In mathematics/Algebra 1, 78.5% showed on grade level skills. In Science/Biology, 68.66% showed on grade level science understanding. Eighth grades were tested in writing, with 72% showed on grade level writing skills.[74] According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 2,181 public schools (less than 73 percent of Pennsylvania public schools), achieved an academic score of 70 or higher.[75]

AYP History[edit]

In 2012, Benton Middle Senior High School declined to Warning AYP status due to lagging student academic achievement.[76] In 2011 and 2010, the School achieved Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) status. Benton High School ranked 444 out of 610 Pennsylvania high schools, vocational schools, and charter schools for student academic achievement as demonstrated on the PSSAs for math and reading, in 2009.[77]

PSSA results

Pennsylvania System of School Assessments, commonly called PSSAs are NCLB related examination given in the Spring of each school year. From 1999 to 2012, Pennsylvania eleventh graders took the PSSAs in reading, mathematics, science and writing. Sixth and seventh grades are tested in reading and mathematics since 2006. Eighth graders are tested in: reading, writing, mathematics and Science. Beginning in the Spring of 2013, eighth graders, who are enrolled in Algebra I take the Keystone Exam for Algebra I at the end of the course. The testing of 8th grade in reading and mathematics began in 1999. Testing in science began in 2007. The goal is for 100% of students to be on grade level or better in reading and mathematics, by the Spring of 2014. The tests focus on the state's Academic Standards for reading, writing, mathematics and science. The standards were first published in 1998 and are mandated by the Pennsylvania State Board of Education.[78]

In 2013, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania changed its high school assessments to the Keystone Exams in Algebra 1, Reading/literature and Biology1. The exams are given at the end of the course, rather than all in the spring of the student's 11th grade year.[79]

11th Grade Reading:
  • 2012 - 62% on grade level, (12% below basic). State - 67% of 11th graders are on grade level.[80]
  • 2011 - 60.9% (28.2% below basic). State - 69.1% (46 pupils.) Ranks 17th out of 19 high schools in CSIU 16 region for reading.[81][82]
  • 2010 - 54%, State - 66% [83]
  • 2009 - 57%, State - 65% [84]
  • 2008 - 66.6%, State - 65% [85][86]
  • 2007 - 47.3%, State - 65% [87]
11th Grade Mathematics:
  • 2012 - 65% on grade level (20% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 59% of 11th graders are on grade level.[88]
  • 2011 - 65.2%, (27% below basic). State - 60.3%. Ranked 10th out of 18 CSIU16 region high schools for math achievement of 11th graders.[89][90]
  • 2010 - 44%, State - 59%. Ranked 17th out of 18 CSIU16 region high schools for math achievement of 11th graders.[91][92]
  • 2009 - 52.7%, State - 56%. Ranked 10th out of 18 CSIU16 region high schools for math achievement of 11th graders.[93]
  • 2008 - 60.8%, State - 56%
  • 2007 - 49.1%, State - 53%[94]
  • 2006 - 63%, State - 52%[95]
  • 2005 - 53%, State - 51%

11th Grade Writing (percent proficient or better)

  • 2009 - 91% on grade level[96]
  • 2008 - 80.9% on grade level
  • 2007 - 61%
11th Grade Science:
  • 2012 - 48% on grade level (8% below basic). State - 44% of 11th graders were on grade level.
  • 2011 - 50% (16% below basic). State – 40%. Benton High School ranked 8th out of 18 CSIU 16 region high schools for 11th grade Science.[97]
  • 2010 - 34%, State - 39%. Benton High School ranked 16th out of 18 CSIU 16 region high schools in 11th grade Science achievement.[98]
  • 2009 - 47%, State - 40% [99][100]
  • 2008 - 38.8%, State - 35.5%[101]

College remediation[edit]

According to a Pennsylvania Department of Education study released in January 2009, 20% of Benton Area High School graduates required remediation in mathematics and or reading before they were prepared to take college level courses in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education or community colleges.[102] 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.[103] 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]

Benton Area 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 school districts with the assistance of a state grant.[104][105]

Penn College NOW

In 2014, Benton Area School District offered several courses in conjunction with Pennsylvania College of Technology. Penn College NOW classes are taught by approved local high school teachers, at the high school.[106] Penn College NOW is partially funded by the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act of 2006 (Public Law 109-270) through the Pennsylvania Department of Education, by the support of Pennsylvania companies through the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program managed by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and by Pennsylvania College of Technology.

Graduation requirements[edit]

The Benton Area School Board has determined that a student must complete at least 25 credits for graduation, including: English 4 credits, Math 4 credits, Science 4 credits, Social Studies 4 credits, Health 0.50 credit, Physical Education 1.32, Computer 2 credits, Drivers Ed 0.33 credits and 6.85 electives.[107]

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.[108] 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.[109]

By Pennsylvania School Board regulations, beginning with the class of 2017, public school students must demonstrate successful completion of secondary level course work in Algebra I, Biology, and English Literature by passing the Keystone Exams.[110][111][112] For the class of 2019, a composition exam will be added. For the class of 2020, passing a civics and government exam will be added to the graduation requirements.[113] 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.[114] Individual student, school or district reports were not made public, although they were reported to district officials by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Students identified as having special needs and qualifying for an Individual Educational Program (IEP) may graduate by meeting the requirements of their IEP.

SAT scores[edit]

In 2015, 30 Benton Area School District students took the SAT exams. The District's Verbal Average Score was 498. The Math average score was 489. The Writing average score was 476.[115] The College Board also reported that statewide 96,826 pupils took the exams with average scores declining in all three measurers to: 495 in reading, 511 in math and 484 in writing.[116]

In 2014, 24 Benton Area School District students took the SAT exams. The District's Verbal Average Score was 475. The Math average score was 482. The Writing average score was 463.[117] Statewide in Pennsylvania, Verbal Average Score was 497. The Math average score was 504. The Writing average score was 480. The College Board also reported that nationwide scores were: 497 in reading, 513 in math and 487 in writing.[118]

In 2013, 34 Benton Area School District students took the SAT exams. The District's Verbal Average Score was 531. The Math average score was 497. The Writing average score was 496.76. The College Board reported that statewide scores were: 494 in reading, 504 in math and 482 in writing. The nationwide SAT results were the same as in 2012.[119]

In 2012, 27 Benton Area School District students took the SAT exams. The District's Verbal Average Score was 506. The Math average score was 504. The Writing average score was 477. 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, 31 Benton Area School District students took the SAT exams. The District's Verbal Average Score was 478. The Math average score was 478. The Writing average score was 445.[120] Pennsylvania ranked 40th among states with SAT scores: Verbal - 493, Math - 501, Writing - 479.[121] 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.[122]

The Pennsylvania Department of Education compared the SAT data of students in rural areas of Pennsylvania to students in urban areas. From 2003 to 2005, the average total SAT score for students in rural Pennsylvania was 992, while urban students averaged 1,006. During the same period, 28 percent of 11th and 12th graders in rural school districts took the exam, compared to 32 percent of urban students in the same grades. The average math and verbal scores were 495 and 497, respectively, for rural students, while urban test-takers averaged 499 and 507, respectively. Pennsylvania's SAT composite score ranked low on the national scale in 2004. The composite SAT score of 1,003 left Pennsylvania ranking 44 out of the 50 states and Washington, DC.[123]

ACE[edit]

Benton Area School District students have access to Bloomsburg University's Summer College and Advanced College Experience (ACE) during the summer of their sophomore, junior and senior years (after high school graduation). Tuition is deeply discounted to 75% of the regular student rate.[124] Successful students earn college credits that can be transferred to other Pennsylvania public colleges and universities through the Pennsylvania TRAC system.[125]

Eighth grade[edit]

8th Grade Science:
  • 2012 - 64% on grade level (17% below basic). State - 59% of 8th graders were on grade level.
  • 2011 - 61.9% (19% below basic). State - 58.3% [131]
  • 2010 - 63%, State - 57%
  • 2009 - 62%, State - 55%[132]
  • 2008 - 60%, State - 50%

Seventh grade[edit]

Dropout Early Warning System

In 2013, Benton Area School District did not implement a free state dropout prevention Early Warning System and Interventions Catalog at the middle school.[138] The process identifies students at risk for droping out by examining the pupil's: attendance, behavior and course grades. Interventions are implemented to assist at-risk pupils to remain in school. The program is funded by federal and private dollars.[139]

Appleman Elementary School[edit]

L.R. Appleman Elementary School is located at 600 Green Acres Road, Benton. In 2016, the School's enrollment was 372 pupils in grades kindergarten through 6th, with 37% of pupils receiving a federal free or reduced price meals due to family poverty. Additionally, 15.8% of the pupils receive special education services, while none are identified as gifted.[140] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of the teachers were rated highly qualified under No Child Left Behind. The school provides full day kindergarten.[141] The school is a federally designated Title I school. The school has provided all-day kindergarten since 2004.

In 2013, Appleman Elementary School had an enrollment of 394 pupils grades kindergarten (full day) through 6th grades, with 34.5% eligible for a free or reduced price meal due to poverty. Additionally, 15.22% of its pupils received special education services and 3.8% were identified as gifted.[142] The school was a federally designated Title I school.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2011, L.R. Appleman Elementary School reported an enrollment of 368 pupils in grades kindergarten through 6th, with 164 pupils receiving a federal free or reduced-price lunch due to family poverty. The school is a federally designated Title I school. The school employed 31 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 11:1.[143] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of its teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind.[144]

The School has an All-Purpose Room (cafeteria and auditorium), full serving kitchen, library media center, gymnasium, art room, music room and band room. Adjacent to the elementary school are athletic fields for baseball, softball, field hockey and soccer. The elementary school has an extensively equipped playground.[145]

2016 School Performance Profile

SPP 82.4 out of 100. Appleman Elementary School PSSA mandated testing results were: 6th graders, 69% were on grade level in reading and 64% were on grade level in mathematics. In 5th grade, 85% of students were on grade level in reading, while 64% of students demonstrated on grade level mathematics skills. In 4th grade, 75% were on grade level in reading, while 46% demonstrated on grade level math skills. In science, 98% of fourth grade pupils demonstrated on grade level understanding of science concepts in the state standards. Among the school's third graders, 75% were on grade level in reading and 64% showed on grade level mathematics skills.[146][147][148]

2015 School Performance Profile

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, at Appleman Elementary School, among 6th graders, 65% were on grade level in reading and 41% were on grade level in mathematics. Among fifth graders, 58% of 5th grade students were on grade level in reading. In mathematics, 48% of 5th grade students showed on grade level skills. No fifth grade writing scores were reported. In 4th grade, 80% were on grade level in reading, while 67% showed on grade level math skills. In science, 97% of fourth graders showed on grade level understanding. Among third (3rd) graders, 75% were on grade level in reading and 61% were on grade level in mathematics.[149] Statewide 61.9% of fifth (5th) graders were on grade level in reading, while 42.8% demonstrated on grade level math skills. Pennsylvania 4th graders were 58.6% on grade level in reading and 44.4% demonstrated on grade level math skills. In science, 77.3% of fourth graders showed on grade level understanding. Among Pennsylvania third (3rd) graders, 62% were reading on grade level, while 48.5% demonstrated on grade level math skills.[150]

2014 School Performance Profile

Appleman Elementary School achieved a score of 87.2 out of 100. The score reflects on grade level: reading, science, writing and mathematics achievement. In 2013-14, only 77% of the students were reading on grade level in grades 3rd through 5th. In 3rd grade, 87.5% of the pupils were reading on grade level. In math, 86.8% were on grade level (3rd-5th grades). In 4th grade science, 93% of the pupils demonstrated on grade level understanding. In writing, only 77% of 5th grade pupils demonstrated on grade level skills.[151]

2013 School Performance Profile

L.R. Appleman Elementary School achieved a score of 89 out of 100. The score reflects on grade level: reading, science, writing and mathematics achievement. In 2012-13, only 73.7% of the students were reading on grade level in grades 3rd through 6th. In 3rd grade, 73% of the pupils were reading on grade level. In math, 91.5% were on grade level (3rd-5th grades). In 4th grade science, 90.7% of the pupils demonstrated on grade level understanding. In writing, 84% of 5th grade pupils demonstrated on grade level writing skills.[152]

AYP history

L.R. Appleman Elementary School achieved AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) status every school year 2003 through 2012.[153][154]

4th Grade Science
  • 2012 - 95%, 74% Advanced. State - 82%
  • 2011 - 96.2%, 65% Advanced. State – 82.9%
  • 2010 - 90%, (4% below basic). State - 81%
  • 2009 - 92%, Advanced 63% (4% below basic), State - 83%
  • 2008 - 90%, Advanced 55% (3% below basic), State - 81%

Special education[edit]

In December 2015, the District administration reported that 137 pupils or 18.8% of the district's pupils received Special Education services, with 43.1% of the identified students having a specific learning disability.[170] In 2013, the District administration reported that 124 pupils or 16.8% of the district's pupils received Special Education services, with 54.8% of the identified students having a specific learning disability.[171] In 2012, the Benton Area School District administration reported that 122 pupils or 16.4% of the district's pupils received Special Education services, with 54.9% of identified students having a specific learning disability.[172] In 2011, the Benton Area School District administration reported that 139 pupils or 18.2% of the district's pupils received Special Education services, with 56.8% of identified students having a specific learning disability. In 2010, the Benton Area School District administration reported that 135 pupils or 18% of the district's pupils received Special Education services, with 62% of identified students having a specific learning disability. In 2009, the district administration reported that 124 pupils or 16% of the district's pupils received Special Education services.[173]

In 2007, Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Gerald Zahorchak testified before the Pennsylvania House Education Committee regarding full day kindergarten. He claimed that districts which offered the program would see a significant decrease in special education students due to early identification and early intervention. He asserted the high cost of full day kindergarten would be recouped by Districts in lower special education costs.[174] The District has offered full day kindergarten since 2003.[175] Benton Area School District has seen an increase in the percentage of special education students it serves. Each year the School Board has sought an exception to exceed its Act 1 Index limit, due to escalating costs for special education students. The requests have been approved in full, by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, each school year.

The District engages in identification procedures to ensure that eligible students receive an appropriate educational program consisting of special education and related services, individualized to meet student needs. At no cost to the parents, these services are provided in compliance with state and federal law; and are reasonably calculated to yield meaningful educational benefit and student progress.[176] To identify students who may be eligible for special education, various screening activities are conducted on an ongoing basis. These screening activities include: review of group-based data (cumulative records, enrollment records, health records, report cards, ability and achievement test scores); hearing, vision, motor, and speech/language screening; and review by the Instructional Support Team or Student Assistance Team. When screening results suggest that the student may be eligible, the District seeks parental consent to conduct a multidisciplinary evaluation. Parents who suspect their child is eligible may verbally request a multidisciplinary evaluation from a professional employee of the District or contact the building principal. Students in the Benton Area School District receive services through a combination of district operated programs and services contracted through the Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit. Special education is designed to meet the needs of each exceptional student, including specifically designed instruction conducted in the classroom, home, community settings, hospitals, and other appropriate settings.[177] By Pennsylvania law, the District has 60 calendar days, after receiving parental consent, to complete the evaluation.[178][179][180] The IDEA 2004 requires each school entity to publish a notice to parents, in newspapers or other media, including the student handbook and website regarding the availability of screening and intervention services and how to access them.

In 2010, the state of Pennsylvania provided $1,026,815,000 for special education services. This funding is in addition to the state's basic education per pupil funding, as well as, all other state and federal funding.[181] 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.[182] 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.[183] 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.[184] In 2012, the Obama Administration's US Department of Education issued a directive that schools include students with disabilities in extracurricular activities, including sports.[185]

Benton Area School District received a $425,059 supplement for special education services in 2010.[186] For the 2011-12, 2012–13, 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.[187][188] Additionally, the state provides supplemental funding for extraordinarily impacted students. The District must apply for this added funding.

For the 2014-15 school year, Benton Area received $432,331 in state special education funding. For the 2016-17 school year, Benton Area School District received a 1.8% increase in state special education funding to $453,384.[189]

Gifted education[edit]

The District Administration reported that 27 or 3.80% of its students were gifted in 2009.[190] At Benton Area Elementary School, the program focuses on experiences directly related to general classes, expanding on current instructional material. Acceleration through the grade level content is provided by a gifted instructor, utilized enrichment opportunities, and advanced content related activities. The program is based on the interests of the student, allowing them to develop critical thinking skills. Secondary level students (7–12) are provided the opportunity to participate in Honors and Advanced Placement courses. Additional enrichment activities are provided by the gifted instructor based on student interest. Gifted students also have the ability to pursue higher education courses through dual enrollment and online programs. They can pursue interests through distance learning courses and projects developed to utilize skills and challenge academic performance. Students are permitted to pursue grade level acceleration leading to early graduation.

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. The principal acts as the case manager for the referral process. A 60 calendar day time-line begins when the signed Permission to Evaluate form is received. 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.[191] Through the strategic planning process, the Superintendent must ensure that the school district provides a continuum of program and service options to meet the needs of all mentally gifted students for enrichment, acceleration, or both. The district's program is based on student needs and provides differentiated curriculum using acceleration, enrichment and pull-out options.

Wellness policy[edit]

Benton Area School Board established a district wellness policy in 2006 – Policy 246.[192] The policy deals with nutritious meals served at school, the control of access to some foods and beverages during school hours, age appropriate nutrition education for all students, and physical education for students K-12. The policy is in response to state mandates and federal legislation (P.L. 108 – 265). The law dictates that each school district participating in a program authorized by the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (42 U.S.C. 1751 et seq) or the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 (42 U.S.C. 1771 et seq) "shall establish a local school wellness policy by School Year 2006."

The legislation placed the responsibility of developing a wellness policy at the local level 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 are 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.[193] The Pennsylvania Department of Education required the district to submit a copy of the policy for approval.

Benton Area School District offers a free school breakfast and free or reduced-price lunch to low-income children.[194] 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.[195] The meals are partially funded with federal dollars through the United States Department of Agriculture.[194]

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.[196] In order to comply with the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 all US public school districts are required to raise the price of their school lunches to $2.60 regardless of the actual cost of providing the lunch.[197] The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 mandates that Districts raise their full pay lunch prices every year until the price of non-subsidized lunches equals the amount the federal government reimburses schools for free meals. That subsidy in 2013-2014 was $2.93.

In 2014, President Obama ordered a prohibition of advertisements for unhealthy foods on public school campuses during the school day.[198] The Food and Drug Administration requires that students take milk as their beverage at lunch. In accordance with this law, any student requesting water in place of milk with their lunch must present a written request, signed by a doctor, documenting the need for water instead of milk.[199][200]

Benton Area School District provides health services as mandated by the Commonwealth and the federal government. Nurses are available in the building to conduct annual health screenings (data reported to the PDE and state Department of Health) and to dispense prescribed medications to students during the school day. Students can be excluded from school unless they comply with all the State Department of Health's extensive immunization mandates. School nurses monitor each pupil for this compliance.[201][202] Nurses also monitor each child's weight.[203]

In 2016, the Pennsylvania Department of Health made available to each Pennsylvania high school the overdose antidote drug naloxone in a nasal spray. School nurses were also provided with educational materials and training developed by the National Association of School Nurses.[204] The cost was covered by a grant from a private foundation.[205][206]

Highmark Healthy High 5 grant[edit]

In 2011, Benton Area School District received funding through a Highmark Healthy High 5 grant. Benton Area High School received $4,848 which was used to purchase equipment to implement the Benton Wii Play 60 program to enhance current physical education programming.[207] 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.

Bullying policy[edit]

The Benton Area School District administration reported there were three incidents of bullying in the District in 2013. Additionally, there was one assault on a student and no sexual incidents involving students. The local law enforcement was involved in nine incidents at the schools, with four arrests.[208]

The Benton Area School District administration reported there were no incidents of bullying in the Bistrict in 2009.[209][210]

The Benton Area School Board has provided the district's antibully policy online.[211] 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.[212] 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.[213]

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.[214]

Enrollment[edit]

In 2016, enrollment declined to 674 pupils k-12th one year earlier than projected by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Enrollment was projected to decline to 680 students by 2017<[215] According to Pennsylvania Department of Education enrollment reports, there were less than 750 students enrolled in K-12 in 2009–10 school year at Benton Area School District. There were 65 students in the Class of 2009. The district's class of 2010 had 55 students. Approximately 5–10% of the district's students graduate from Columbia-Montour Vocational Technical School. In 2015, the administration reported enrollment had declined to 697 pupils.[216]

In 2008, Benton Area School District administrative costs were $790 per pupil. The lowest administrative cost per pupil in Pennsylvania was $398 per pupil.[217] A study of Pennsylvania public school spending, conducted by Standard and Poor's, examined the consolidation of Benton Area School administration with 4 neighboring districts: East Lycoming School District, Millville Area School District, Northwest Area School District and Sullivan County School District. The study found that consolidation of the administration with an adjacent school district would achieve substantial administrative cost savings which varied by district.[218] The study found that consolidation with Millville Area School District would save taxpayers $1,433,719 a year. Consolidation with East Lycoming School District would have saved $1,678,358 a year. The savings came from consolidating administrations without closing any local schools.

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.[219] Consolidation of two central administrations into one would not require the closing of any schools. The Governor's proposal called for the savings to be redirected to improving lagging reading and science achievement, to enriching the academic programs or to reducing residents' property taxes.[220]

Over the next 10 years, rural Pennsylvania school enrollment was projected to decrease 8 percent.[221] As the enrollment declined, per pupil administrative costs of the schools continued to rise. 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.[222]

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has one of the highest numbers of school districts in the nation. In Pennsylvania, 80% of the school districts serve student populations under 5,000, and 40% serve less than 2,000. This results in excessive school administration bureaucracy and not enough course diversity.[223] 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.[224]

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.[225]

In 2013, the average teacher salary in Benton Area School District was $50,866 a year, while the cost of the benefits teachers received was $22,203 per employee, for a total annual average teacher compensation of $73,070.[226] In 2012, the average teacher salary in Benton Area School District had risen to $49,126 a year and the benefits the teachers receive cost $18,626. The average teacher's total compensation was $67,753.[227] Benton Area School District teacher and administrator retirement benefits are equal to at least 2.00% x Final Average Salary x Total Credited Service. (Some teachers benefits utilize a 2.50% benefit factor.)[228] After 40 years of service, a teacher can retire with 100% of the average salary of their final 3 years of employment. 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.[229]

In 2011, the average teacher salary in Benton Area School District was $46,720 a year, while the cost of the benefits teachers received was $14,152 per employee, for a total annual average teacher compensation of $60,872.[230][231]

In 2009, Benton Area School District reports employing 67 teachers with a salary range of $37,000 to 59,000.[232] The median salary was $44,668.[233] Teachers earn extra pay for duties such as advising the clubs, writing curriculum or coaching athletics teams. That amount ranges from several hundred dollars a year to a few thousand. When a team progresses past the regular season the coaches are paid additional dollars for each week the team continues to play. In addition to salary, the teachers receive a benefits package which includes: health insurance(teachers contribute 18% of premium), life insurance, a defined benefit pension(teachers invest 7.5% of salary), paid sick and personal days, reimbursement for college courses and more.[234]

In 2007, the average teacher salary in the Benton Area School District was $42,978 for 187 days worked, 180 teaching days and 7 in-service days.[235] This is the lowest salary of all school districts in Columbia County.

Per pupil spending In 2008, Benton Area School District Administration reported that the District's per pupil spending was $11,734. This ranked 307th among Pennsylvania's 500 school districts.[236] In 2010, the per pupil spending had increased to $14,318.63.[237] Among the states, Pennsylvania's total per pupil revenue (including all sources) ranked 11th at $15,023 per student, in 2008-09.[238] In 2007, the Pennsylvania per pupil total expenditures was $12,759.[239] The U.S. Census Bureau reports that Pennsylvania spent $8,191 per pupil in school year 2000-01.[240]

In August 2015, the Board hired Brian Christopher Cooper as superintendent at a starting salary of $110,000.[241] He came from the North Star School District where he had served as superintendent since January 2015.[242] Cooper had been demoted to the Assistant High School Principal at Williams Valley School District in July 2012.[243]

Reserves In 2008, Benton Area School District reported an unreserved designated fund balance of zero and an unreserved-undesignated fund balance of $2,330,463.00.[244] In 2010, Benton Area School District Administration reported $933,005 in the unreserved-undesignated fund balance. The District reported zero in its unreserved-designated fund in 2010. 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. By law the state limits the total unreserved-undesignated fund balance at 8% of the annual budget for school districts that have budgets over $19 million a year. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, from 2003 to 2010, as a whole, Pennsylvania school districts amassed nearly $3 billion in reserved funds.[245] In 2014, the Board reported reserves of $1,658,769.[246]

Audit In January 2010, the Pennsylvania Auditor General conducted a performance audit of the Benton Area School District. Findings were reported to the school board and administration.[247] In July 2014, the District was audited again. The Findings were reported to the School Board.[248]

Green energy project In 2009, Benton Area School District began using locally grown switch grass as the fuel in a biomass boiler to heat the school facilities. The administration projects saving 25,500 gallons of heating oil saving nearly $60,000. The project cost $2.1 million with $700,000 in state grants and $1 million borrowed from the state.[249]

Tuition Students who live in the Benton Area School 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 Benton 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 Benton Area School District's schools. The 2012 tuition rates are Elementary School - $8,707.03, High School - $9,914.11.[250]

Benton Area School District is funded by a combination of: a local earned income tax 1.1%, a local property tax, a real estate transfer tax 0.5%, and grants coupled with substantial funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the federal government.[251] 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.[252] 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.[253] Effective 2016, active duty military are also exempted from paying the local earned income tax in Pennsylvania.[254][255]

State basic education funding[edit]

According to a report from Representative Todd Stephens office, Benton Area School District receives 33.5% of its annual revenue from the state.[256]

For the 2016-17 school year, Benton Area School District received $3,307,127 in Basic Education Funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This is a 3% increase over 2015-16 funding to the District. The highest percentage of BEF increase in Columbia County was 3% awarded to Bloomsburg Area School District and Benton Area, under the state's Basic Education Funding formula. For the 2016-17 school year, Pennsylvania increased its public education spending to a record high of $5,895 billion. It was a $200 million increase, 3.51% increase over the 2015-16 appropriation.[257] The state also funded Ready to Learn grants at $250 million and Special Education funding received a $20 million increase.[258] The state also paid $492 million to the school employee social security fund and another $2.064 billion to the teacher's pension fund.[259] Benton area also received an increase in special education funding and an increase in Ready to Learn state grant yielding $112,285.

For the 2015-16 school year, Governor Tom Wolf released a partial Basic Education Funding of $1,520,796 to Benton Area School District, in January 2016.[260] This was part of $10.3 billion in school funding withheld from the public schools, by the Governor since the summer of 2015.[261] The dispersement did not follow the new Basic Education Fair Funding formula which had been established by the Pennsylvania General Assembly in June 2015.[262] Ten (10) Pennsylvania school districts received no increase in Basic Education funding under Governor Wolf.[263][264] Benton Area School District also received another $101,899 in state Ready To Learn grant funding. In April 2016, Governor Wolf announced his finalized dispersement of 2015-16 state Basic Education Funding. Benton Area School District received a 1.34% increase for a total funding of $3,270,770.[265] This is $52,832 less than the District was to receive by law under the state's Fair Funding Formula approved in 2015.[266][267] The highest increase in funding statewide the governor proposed was to be awarded to Wilkinsburg Borough School District which was to got a 44.1% increase in state Basic Education Funding. The average BEF increase among the Commonwealth's 500 public school districts for 2015-16 in the Wolf plan was 2.21%. In Columbia County, the highest percentage increase was awarded to Berwick Area School District - 2.62%.

In compliance with a legislative mandate that was passed with veto proof majorities in the PA House and Senate,[268] the final BEF funding was determined for 2015-16, in April 2016. Benton Area School District received a total of $3,211,437 in Basic Education Funds for the 2015-16 school year. This was a 2.33% increase yielding a $73,101 increase over the previous school year funding. The District also received $112,285 in Ready to Learn funding from the state.[269] This was the highest percentage increase of BEF awarded to Columbia County school districts.

For the 2014-15 school year, Benton Area School District received $3,138,344 in State Basic Education funding. The District also received another $89,095 in new Ready To Learn Block grant. The State's enacted Education Budget includes $5,526,129,000 for the 2014-2015 Basic Education Funding.[270] The Education budget also includes Accountability Block Grant funding at $100 million and $241 million in new Ready to Learn funding for public schools that focus on student achievement and academic success. The State is paying $500.8 million to Social Security on the school employees behalf and another $1.16 billion to the state teachers pension system (PSERS). In total, Pennsylvania's Education budget for K-12 public schools is $10 billion. This was a $305 million increase over 2013-2014 state spending and the greatest amount ever allotted by the Commonwealth for its public schools.[271]

For the 2013-14 school year, the Benton Area School District received a 1.5% increase or $3,138,032 in Pennsylvania Basic Education Funding (BEF). This is $46,243 more than its 2012-13 state BEF to the District. Additionally, Benton Area School District received $46,427 in Accountability Block Grant funding to focus on academic achievement and level funding for special education services. Among the public school districts in Columbia County, Southern Columbia Area School District received the highest percentage increase at 2.1%. 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%. The highest increase in state funding was awarded to Austin Area School District which received a 22.5% increase in Basic Education Funding.[272] The state funded the PSERS (Pennsylvania school employee pension fund) with $1,017,000,000 and Social Security payments for school employees of $495 million.[273]

For the 2012-13 school year, the Benton Area School District received $3,138,216.[274] The Governor's Executive Budget for 2012-2013 included $9.34 billion for kindergarten through 12th grade public education, including $5.4 billion in basic education funding, which was an increase of $49 million over the 2011-12 budget. In addition, the Commonwealth provided $100 million for the Accountability Block Grant (ABG) program. Benton Area School District received $46,427 in ABG funding. The state also provided a $544.4 million payment for School Employees’ Social Security and $856 million for School Employees’ Retirement fund called PSERS.[275] This amount was a $21,823,000 increase (0.34%) over the 2011-2012 appropriations for Basic Education Funding, School Employees' Social Security, Pupil Transportation, Nonpublic and Charter School Pupil Transportation. Since taking office, Corbett's first two budgets have restored more than $918 million in support of public schools, compensating for the $1 billion in federal stimulus dollars lost at the end of the 2010-11 school year.

For the 2011-12 school year, the Benton Area School District received $3,091,789 in state Basic Education Funding.[276] Additionally, the district will receive $46,427 in Accountability Block Grant funding.[277] The Pennsylvania Department of Education reports that 299 pupils received a federal free and reduced-price lunch, due to the family meeting the federal poverty level.

For the 2010–11 school year, Benton Area received a 3.87% increase in state basic education funding for a total of $3,195,767. One hundred fifty Pennsylvania school districts received the base 2% increase. The highest increase in Columbia County was awarded to Southern Columbia Area School District at 7.38%. Among Pennsylvania school districts, the highest increase in 2010–11 went to Kennett Consolidated School District in Chester County which received a 23.65% increase in state funding.[278] The state's hold harmless policy regarding state basic education funding continued where each public school district received at least the same amount as it received the prior school year, even when enrollment had significantly declined. The amount of increase each school district received was set by Governor Edward Rendell and then Secretary of Education Gerald Zahorchak, as a part of the state budget proposal given each February. This was the second year of Governor Rendell's policy to fund some public school districts at a far greater rate than others.[279]

In the 2009–10 school year, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provided a 3.36% increase in Basic Education Funding for $3,195,767. In Columbia County, the highest increase went to Berwick Area School District which received 6.11% increase.[280] Across the Commonwealth ninety school districts received the base 2% increase in funding in 2009. Muhlenberg School District in Berks County received a 22.31% increase in state basic education funding in 2009. The amount of increase each school district received was set by the Governor Edward Rendell and the Secretary of Education Gerald Zahorchak as a part of the state budget proposal given each February.[281] 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.[282][283]

In the 2008-09 school year, the state Basic Education Funding to the Benton Area School District was $3,091,788.75. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Benton Area School District had 282 students receiving free or reduced-price lunches due to low family income in the 2007–2008 school year.

All Pennsylvania school districts also receive additional funding from the state through several funding allocations, including: Reimbursement of Charter School Expenditures; Special Education Funding; Secondary Career & Technical Education Subsidy; PA Accountability Grants; and low achieving schools were eligible for Educational Assistance Program Funding. Plus all Pennsylvania school districts receive federal dollars for various programs including: Special Education funding and Title I funding for children from low income families. In 2010, Pennsylvania spent over $24 billion for public education - local, state and federal dollars combined.[284] By 2015, Pennsylvania is spending over $27 billion on public education (local, state and federal resources combined).[285]

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, 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 the 2010–11 school year, the Benton Area School District applied for and received $126,015, in addition to all other state and federal funding. The District used the funding to provide all-day kindergarten for the fifth year.[286][287]

Ready to Learn grant[edit]

Beginning in the 2014-2015 budget, the State funded a new Ready to Learn Grant for public schools. A total of $100 million is allocated through a formula to districts based on the number of students, level of poverty of community as calculated by its market value/personal income aid ratio (MV/PI AR) and the number of English language learners. Ready to Learn Block Grant funds may be used by the Districts for: school safety; Ready by 3 early childhood intervention programs; individualized learning programs; and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs.[288]

Benton Area School District received $89,000 in Ready to Learn Grant dollars in addition to State Basic Education funding, Special Education funding, reimbursement for Social Security payments for employees. Other state grants were offered for which the district must apply to receive. For 2016-17, the district received an increase to $112,285.

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 state grant requires the district hire a part-time technology coach, whose role is to assist the teachers in using the equipment and software effectively to improve their instruction. The salary is covered by the grant.[289] The program was funded from 2006–2009. Benton Area School District was denied funding in 2006–07. The District received $109,661 in 2007–08 and $45,413 in 2008–09 for a total funding of $155,074.[290] Among the public school districts in Columbia County, the highest award was given to Berwick Area School District which received $403,446. The highest funding statewide was awarded to Philadelphia City School District in Philadelphia County - $9,409,073. The grant program was discontinued by Governor Edward Rendell as part of the 2009-10 state budget.

Project 720[edit]

Project 720 was a high school reform program implemented for three years under the Rendell administration. The intent was to increase academic rigor and improve the instruction of teachers in the Commonwealth's high schools. Teachers were expected to use data driven instructional practices and to meet the needs of diverse learners.[291] The 720 in the name referred to the number of days a student was in high school in ninth through 12th grades. High school's applied for funding and were required to agree to report to the PDE their plans, their actions and the outcomes. In 2007-08 budget year, the Commonwealth provided $11 million in funding. Benton Area School District was one of 161 PA public school district to apply, receiving $61,000 funding each school year for three years.[292][293] For 2010-11, Project 720 funding was decreased to $1.7 million by Governor Rendell. The grant program was discontinued effective with the 2011-12 state budget.[294]

Successful Students Participation grant[edit]

The Successful Students’ Partnership is a statewide dropout prevention initiative authorized by Act 49 of 1987 and is administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The program focuses on positive changes to address the needs of students in ever-changing communities and the issues of low academic achievement, poor school attendance and discipline. Benton Area School District received $35,000.[295]

Other grants[edit]

The District did not participate in: Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's Environmental Education grants,[296][297] PA Science Its Elementary grants (discontinued effective with 2009-10 budget by Governor Rendell),[298] Education Assistance Grants, 2012 Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy grant;[299] 2012 and 2013 Pennsylvania Hybrid Learning Grants;[300] nor the federal 21st Century Learning grants.

Federal grants[edit]

The Benton Area School District received over $600,000 in ARRA (Federal Stimulus) funding in 2009–2011. This is in addition to all regular state and federal funding.[301] The funding was limited to the 2009-10 and 2010-2011 school years.[302] 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]

Benton Area School Administration did not apply for the Federal Race to the Top grant. According to the PDE, the school would have received up to $600,000.[303] School district officials determined that abiding by 'Race to the Top' requirements would cost more than the district would receive. 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.[304] 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.[305]

Title II grants[edit]

The Federal government provides annual grants to schools to be used to improve the quality of teacher instructions to pupils. The goal is provide each child in public schools with "Highly Quality" teachers and principals as defined by the state.[306] The funds are sent to the state Department of Education which distributes them to each school district and charter school.[307] Beginning in 2002, the federal funding committed to Title II was $3,175,000,000.

Public school district administrations must apply to the state annually for the Title II funds. In 2012-13, Benton Area School District received $37,448 in federal Title II funding.[308] In 2014-15, Benton Area School District applied for and received $36,170.[309]

English language learners grant[edit]

The Federal government provides annual grants to schools to assist in educating immigrant children and children who are identified as limited English proficient.[310] Upon registering for school a language survey is done for all new enrollment pupils, typically in kindergarten or preschool. They identify the primary language spoken at home. This data is collected and submitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, which in turn notifies the federal government.[311]

In 2012-13, Benton Area School District received $272 in Title III funding for English language learners.[312]

Common Cents state initiative[edit]

The Benton Area School Board decided 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.[313] After the review of the information, the district was not required to implement the recommended cost savings changes.

Real estate taxes[edit]

Property tax rates in 2016-17 were set by the school board at 51.4469 mills.[314] 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. On the local level, Pennsylvania 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.[315] Property taxes, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, apply only to real estate - land and buildings. The property tax is not levied on cars, business inventory, or other personal property. Certain types of property are exempt from property taxes, including: places of worship, places of burial, private social clubs, charitable and educational institutions and all government property (local, state and federal). Additionally, service related, disabled US military veterans may seek an exemption from paying property taxes. Unlike other states, under Pennsylvania state tax policy, natural gas and oil pipelines are exempted from property taxes.[316] A new major transmission gas pipeline is being installed in the District called the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline.[317][318] Pipeline companies prohibit development within the 100 foot wide right-of-way, there by limiting future development options for the landowner. This limits future potential property tax revenues for the school district, by constraining future land development. Benton Area School District is adversely impacted in this way.[319][320][321]

When a Pennsylvania public school district includes municipalities in two counties, each of which has different rates of property tax assessment, a state board equalizes the tax rates between the counties.[322] 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.[323]

The average yearly property tax paid by Columbia County residents amounts to about 2.72% of their yearly income. Columbia County ranked 776th out of the 3143 United States counties for property taxes as a percentage of median income.[334] 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.[335] 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%).[336]

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 2011–2012 school year is 1.4 percent, but it 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 public 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.[337] In June 2011, the Pennsylvania General Assembly eliminated six exceptions to the Act 1 Index.[338] 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.[339][340]

The School District Adjusted Index for the Benton Area School District 2006–2007 through 2011–2012.[341]

For the 2016-17 budget year, Benton Area School Board applied for two exceptions to exceed the District's Act 1 Index limit: escalating teacher pension costs and rising special education costs.[348] Statewide 299 school districts adopted a resolution to not exceed their Act I index in 2016-17.

For the 2015-16 budget year, Benton Area School Board did not apply for an exception to exceed their Act 1 Index limit. For the school budget 2015-16, 310 Pennsylvania public school districts adopted a resolution certifying that tax rates would not be increased above its Act 1 Index limit. Another 187 school districts adopted a preliminary budget leaving open the option of exceeding the Index limit. Regarding the pension costs exception, 172 school districts received approval to exceed the Index limit in full, while others received a partial approval of their request. For special education costs, 119 districts received approval to exceed their tax limit. No Pennsylvania public school districts received an approval for the grandfathered construction debts exception.[349]

For the 2014-15 budget year, Benton Area School Board applied for two exceptions to exceed their Act 1 Index limit: escalating teacher pension costs and special education costs. For the school budget 2014-15, 316 Pennsylvania public school districts adopted a resolution certifying that tax rates would not be increased above its Act 1 Index limit. Another 181 school districts adopted a preliminary budget leaving open the option of exceeding the Index limit. Districts may apply for multiple exceptions each year. For the pension costs exception, 163 school districts received approval to exceed the Index in full, while others received a partial approval of their request. For special education costs, 104 districts received approval to exceed their tax limit. Seven Pennsylvania public school districts received an approval for the grandfathered construction debts exception.[350]

For the 2013-14 budget year, Benton Area School Board applied for 2 exceptions to exceed the Act 1 Index: rapidly escalating teacher pension costs and special education costs. 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.[351]

For the 2012-13 budget year, Benton Area School Board applied for two exceptions to exceed the Act 1 Index: teacher pension costs and special education 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.[351]

For the 2011-12 school year, Benton Area School Board did not apply for any exception to exceed the Act 1 Index . Each year, the Benton 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 publisher each year by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.[352]

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.[353]

In 2010-11, Benton Area School Board did not apply for any exceptions to exceed the Act 1 index for its budget.[354] 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.[355]

In 2009-10, Benton Area School Board did not apply for any exceptions to exceed the Act 1 index for its budget.[356]

Property tax relief[edit]

In 2015, the annual property tax relief for Benton Area School District was set by the local school board at $230 for 1,526 approved homesteads and farmsteads.[357] Benton Area was the highest tax relief provided in Columbia County. The increase was associated with a decline in recipients. 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 2013, the annual property tax relief for Benton Area School District was set at $227 for 1,548 property owners.[358]

In 2010, the District's property tax relief was set at $225 for 1,560 property owners.[359] In 2009, the Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Relief from gambling for the Benton Area School District was $228 per approved permanent primary residence. In the district, 1541 property owners applied for the tax relief. In Columbia County, 71% of property owners have sought the property tax relief exemption for their home and/or farm.[360] Pennsylvania awarded the highest property tax relief to residents of the Chester-Upland School District in Delaware County at $632 per homestead and farmstead in 2009 and $641 in 2010.[361] This was the second year they were the top recipient.

In Pennsylvania, the homestead exclusion reduces the assessed values of homestead properties, reducing the property tax on these homes. The homestead exclusion allows homeowners real property tax relief of up to one half of the median assessed value of homesteads in the taxing jurisdiction (county, school district, city, borough, or township).[362]

Benton Area School District residents may also qualify for the Pennsylvania Property Tax/Rent Rebate program. It is provided for several groups of school district residents, including: low income residents 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.[363] The maximum rebate for both homeowners and renters is $650. Applicants can exclude one-half (1/2) of their Social Security income, consequently people who have an income of substantially more than $35,000 still qualify for a rebate. Individuals must apply annually for the rebate. This tax rebate can be taken in addition to Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Relief.[364] The Property tax/rent rebate program is funded by revenues from the Pennsylvania Lottery. In 2012, these property tax rebates were increased by an additional 50 percent for senior households in the state, so long as those households have incomes under $30,000 and pay more than 15% of their income in property taxes.[365]

Extracurriculars[edit]

The District offers a variety of activities, clubs and after school sports programs. Varsity and junior varsity athletic activities are under the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association and the regional Pennsylvania Heartland Athletic Conference. Eligibility for participation is determined by school board policy.[366][367]

By Pennsylvania law, all K-12 students in the district, including those who attend a private nonpublic school, cyber charter school, charter school and those 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.[368][369]

Sports[edit]

Article XVI-C of the Public School Code requires the disclosure of interscholastic athletic opportunities for all public secondary school entities in Pennsylvania. All school entities with grades 7-12 are required to annually collect data concerning team and financial information for all male and female athletes beginning with the 2012-13 school year and submit the information to the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Beginning with the 2013-14 school year, all non-school (booster club and alumni) contributions and purchases must also be reported to PDE.[370]

Benton Area coaches receive compensation as outlined in the teachers' union contract. When athletic competition exceeds the regular season, additional compensation is paid.[371] All sports coaches, paid and volunteer, are required to annually complete the Concussion Management Certification Training and present the certification before coaching, as per Senate Bill 200 of Session 2011, the Safety in Youth Sports Act, effective July 1, 2012.

According to Pennsylvania's Safety in Youth Sports Act, all sports coaches, paid and volunteer, are required to annually complete the Concussion Management Certification Training and present the certification before coaching.[372][373]

The District funds:

Middle School Sports

According to PIAA directory July 2016 [374]

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