Forest Area School District

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Forest Area School District
Address
22318 Route 62 Box 16
Northwestern Pennsylvania
Tionesta, Pennsylvania, Forest County, Venango County, Elk County[1] 16353
United States
Information
Type Public school district
School board 9 locally elected members
Superintendent

Superintendent Mrs. Amanda Hetrick [2] contract November 5, 2015 to November 4, 2020

Kevin L. Sprong, former superintendent (2010)
Dean Brian Rosen, Dean of Students
Administrator

Sheila Dubrawka, Business Manager
Mrs. Elisha Pospisil, Director of Curriculum and Technology

Kathy Wells, Administrative Assistant, Transportation Coordinator
Principal Mrs Debra Arner EFES, EFJSHS
Principal Mrs. Elisha Pospisil, West Forest K-12 Principal
Staff 38 non teaching staff members
Teaching staff

47 (2014)

56.0 (on FTE basis)
Age 4 years old preschool to 21 years old special education
Number of students

461 pupils (2015-16)[3]
515 pupils (2013-14)[4]
525 pupils (2012-13)
569 pupils (2010-11)[4]

689 pupils (2005-06)[5]
 • Pre-kindergarten 32
 • Kindergarten 39 (2012), 25 (2009)
 • Grade 1 42 (2012), 35 (2009)
 • Grade 2 29 (2012), 40 (2009)
 • Grade 3 30 (2012),42 (2009)
 • Grade 4 42 (2012), 34 (2009)
 • Grade 5 39 (2012), 49 (2009)
 • Grade 6 40 (2012), 24 (2009)
 • Grade 7 38 (2012), 48 (2009)
 • Grade 8 47 (2012), 47 (2009)
 • Grade 9 28 (2012), 38 (2009)
 • Grade 10 48 (2012), 53 (2009)
 • Grade 11 43 (2012), 55 (2009)
 • Grade 12 34 (2012), 50 (2009)
Budget $11,901,156 (2015-16)[6]
per pupil spending $17,657 (2008) ranked 9th in PA for spending
per pupils spending $29,874.05 (2010)[7] ranked 2nd in PA
Per pupil spending $19,765.25 (2013) ranked 33rd in PA
Website
Map of Forest County, Pennsylvania with Municipal Labels showing Boroughs (red) and Townships (white).
Map of Elk County, Pennsylvania School Districts
Map of Venango County, Pennsylvania Public School Districts

Forest Area School District is a diminutive, rural, public school district in northwestern Pennsylvania. It is the public school entity for all of Forest County. It serves the communities of Marienville and Tionesta, along with President Township in Venango County and Millstone Township in Elk County. The district encompasses approximately 500 square miles (1,300 km2). According to 2000 federal census data, it serves a resident population of 4,946. By 2010, the District's population increased to 8,255 people.[8] The educational attainment levels for the Forest Area School District population (25 years old and over) were 80.9% high school graduates and 9.8% college graduates.[9] The District is one of the 500 public school districts of Pennsylvania.

According to the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, 57.8% of the District’s pupils lived at 185% or below the Federal Poverty Level [1] as shown by their eligibility for the federal free or reduced price school meal programs in 2012.[10] In 2009, the District residents' per capita income was $14,370 a year, while the median family income was $33,333.[11] In the Commonwealth, the median family income was $49,501 [12] and the United States median family income was $49,445, in 2010.[13] In Forest County, the median household income was $36,556.[14] By 2013, the median household income in the United States rose to $52,100.[15] In 2014, the median household income in the USA was $53,700.[16]

Forest Area School District provided basic educational services to 540 pupils through the employment of 53 teachers, 32 full-time and part-time support personnel, and five (5) administrators during the 2009-10 school year. The District received $4.2 million in state funding in the 2009-10 school year.[4] Per District officials, in school year 2007-08, the Forest Area School District enrollment was 606 pupils. It employed 60 teachers, 34 full-time and part-time support personnel, and 4 administrators.

Schools[edit]

East Forest Elementary Marienville, Pennsylvania[17]
West Forest Elementary Tionesta, Pennsylvania[18]
East Forest High Marienville, Pennsylvania[19]
West Forest High Tionesta, Pennsylvania[20]

High school students may choose to attend the Venango Technology Center for training in the construction and mechanical trades. The Riverview Intermediate Unit IU6 provides the District with a wide variety of services like specialized education for disabled students and hearing, background checks for employees, state mandated recognizing and reporting child abuse training, speech and visual disability services and criminal background check processing for prospective employees and professional development for staff and faculty.

Governance[edit]

Forest 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.[21] The federal government controls programs it funds like Title I funding for low-income children in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the No Child Left Behind Act, which mandates the district focus resources on student success in acquiring reading and math skills. The 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 and Business Manager regarding renewal of their employment contracts.[22]

The Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives Sunshine Review gave the school board and district administration a "F" for transparency based on a review of "What information can people find on their school district's website". It examined the school district's website for information regarding; taxes, the current budget, meetings, school board members names and terms, contracts, audits, public records information and more.[23] In 2015 some School Board meeting agendas and minutes are available on the District's site.

Academic achievement[edit]

In October 2015, Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale reported that one school in the District was among the 561 academically challenged schools that have been overlooked by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. East Forest Junior Senior High School was on the list.[24][25] 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.[26]

In 2012, West Forest Elementary School was among the 15% lowest achieving schools in the Commonwealth. Parents and students were eligible for scholarships to transfer to another public or nonpublic school through the state's Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program passed in June 2012.[27] The scholarships are limited to those students whose family's income is less than $60,000 annually, with another $12,000 allowed per dependent. Maximum scholarship award is $8,500, with special education students receiving up to $15,000 for a year's tuition. Parents pay any difference between the scholarship amount and the receiving school's tuition rate. Students may seek admission to neighboring public school districts. Each year the PDE publishes the tuition rate for each individual public school district.[28] The school was off the list the next school year. West Forest Elementary School was again on the lowest achieving schools list for 2014-15 school year. The school remained on the list for 2015-16.[29]

Statewide ranking[edit]

Forest Area School District was ranked 421st out of the 493 ranked Pennsylvania school districts in 2015 by the Pittsburgh Business Times.[30] 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.[31] 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.[32]

In 2009, Forest Area School District ranked in the 18th percentile for student academic achievement among Pennsylvania's 500 school districts.[35]

Graduation rate[edit]

In 2015, Forest Area School District’s graduation rate was 97%.[36]

  • 2014 - 96.5%[37]
  • 2012 - 98%[38]
  • 2011 - 98%[39]
  • 2010 - 98.18%, the Pennsylvania Department of Education issued a new, 4-year cohort graduation rate.[40]
According to traditional graduation rate calculations

Graduation requirements[edit]

The Forest Area School Board has determined that 24 credits must be earned to graduate. This includes: English 4 credits, Math 3 credits, Social Studies 3 credits, Science 3 credits, Physical Education 1.5 credits and more.[44][45]

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.[46] Effective with the graduating class of 2017, the Pennsylvania State Board of Education eliminated the state mandate that students complete a culminating project in order to graduate.[47]

By Pennsylvania State School Board regulations, beginning with the class of 2018, public school students must demonstrate successful completion of secondary level course work in Algebra I, Biology, and English Literature by passing the respective Keystone Exams for each course.[48] The exam is given at the end of the course. Keystone Exams replace the PSSAs for 11th grade.[49]

Students have several opportunities to pass the exam. Schools are mandated to provide targeted assistance to help the student be successful. Those who do not pass after several attempts can perform a project in order to graduate.[50][51] 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.[52] 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.[53] 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.

East Forest Junior Senior High School[edit]

East Forest Junior Senior High School is located at 120 West Birch Street, Marienville. In 2015, enrollment was reported as 104 pupils in 7th through 12th grades, with 61.5% of pupils eligible for a free lunch due to family poverty. Additionally, 19% of pupils received special education services, while 2.8% of pupils were identified as gifted.[54] The school employed 10 teachers.[55] Per the Pennsylvania 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 2013, the School reported an enrollment of 107 pupils in grades 7th through 12th, with 61 pupils eligible for a federal free or reduced price lunch due to the family meeting the federal poverty level. In 2012, the School employed 10 teachers yielding a student-teacher ratio of 10:1.[56] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 3 teachers were rated "Non‐Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind.[57]

2015 School Performance Profile

East Forest Junior Senior High School achieved 61.4 out of 100. Reflects on grade level reading, mathematics and science achievement.The PDE withheld the actual test data due to low numbers of students tested.[58] 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.[59][60] The PDE reported that 34% of 8th grade students at EFJSHS students were on grade level in reading on the PSSAs given in April 2015. In math/Algebra 1, 8.7% of 8th grade students showed on grade level skills. In science, 59% of the school’s 8th graders demonstrated on grade level science understanding. No eighth grade writing scores were reported. In 7th grade, 40% were on grade level in reading, while 15% showed on grade level math skills.

2014 School Performance Profile

East Forest Junior Senior High School achieved 67.3 out of 100. Reflects on grade level reading, mathematics and science achievement. In reading/literature - 72.9% were on grade level. In Algebra 1, 56% showed on grade level skills. In Biology, 67% demonstrated on grade level science understanding at the end of the course.[61][62] 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%.[63]

2013 School Performance Profile

East Forest Junior Senior High School achieved 76 out of 100. Reflects on grade level reading, mathematics and science achievement. In reading/literature - 70.17% were on grade level. In Algebra 1, 52% showed on grade level skills. In Biology, 60% showed on grade level science understanding.[64] In 8th grade writing, 79.17% demonstrated on grade level achievement. 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. Pennsylvania 11th grade students no longer take the PSSAs. Instead, beginning in 2012, they take the Keystone Exams at the end of the associated course.[65]

AYP history[edit]

In 2012, East Forest Junior Senior High School declined to Warning Adequate Yearly Progress status due to lagging achievement in reading and mathematics.[66] In 2011, the School achieved AYP status. In 2009 and 2010, East Forest Junior Senior High School also achieved AYP status.[67]

PSSA Results
11th Grade Reading
  • 2012 - 59% on grade level, (18% below basic). State - 67% of 11th graders are on grade level.[68]
  • 2011 - 71% (17% below basic). State - 69.1%[69]
  • 2010 - 45%, State - 67% (20 pupils)[70]
  • 2009 - 61%, State - 65% (21 pupils)[71]
  • 2008 - 61%, State - 65% (18 pupils)
  • 2007 - 41%, State - 65% (21 pupils)
11th Grade Math:
  • 2012 - 24% on grade level (53% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 59% of 11th graders are on grade level.[72]
  • 2011 - 42% (33% below basic). State - 60.3%[73]
  • 2010 - 30%, State - 59%[74]
  • 2009 - 42%, State - 56%
  • 2008 - 66%, State - 56%
  • 2007 - 42%, State - 53%[75]
11th Grade Science:
  • 2012 - 56% on grade level (19% below basic). State - 42% of 11th graders were on grade level.[76]
  • 2011 - 50% (8% below basic). State - 40%[77]
  • 2010 - 50%, State - 40%[78]
  • 2009 - 52%, State - 40%[79]
  • 2008 - 38%, State - 39%[80]
8th Grade Science:
  • 2012 - not reported due to low enrollment
  • 2011 - 50% (29% below basic). State - 76.9%
  • 2011 - 79% (21% below basic). State - 58.3%
  • 2010 - 42%, State - 57%
  • 2009 - 62%, State - 54%
  • 2008 - 66%, State - 52%

East Forest Elementary School[edit]

East Forest Elementary School is located at. In 2015, the School's enrollment was 73 pupils in grades preschool through 6th, with 61.6% of pupils receiving a federal free or reduced price meals due to family poverty. Additionally, 61% of the pupils receive special education services, while none are identified as gifted.[82] 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 preschool to 4 year olds and full day kindergarten.[83] The school is a federally designated Title I school.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2012, enrollment was 124 pupils in grades preschool through 6th, with 58 pupils receiving a free or reduced price lunch. The School employed 10.5 teachers yielding a student-teacher ratio of 9:1.[84] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of its teachers were rated "Non‐Highly Qualified" under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.[85] The School provided full day kindergarten to all its pupils since 2003.[86]

2015 School Performance Profile

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 58% of 6th graders were on grade level in reading and 50% were on grade level in mathematics. The academic achievement of grades 3 through 5th were withheld from publication due to low enrollment. In accordance with state policy, PSSA results of classes with 10 pupils or less are not revealed to the public.[87] 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.[88]

2014 School Performance Profile

East Forest Elementary School achieved a score of 78.3 out of 100. The score reflects on grade level: reading, science, writing and mathematics achievement. In 2013-14, only 66% of the students were reading on grade level in grades 3rd through 6th. In math, 82% were on grade level (3rd-6th grades). Fourth grade science results were withheld due to low enrollment. In writing, 92% of 5th grade pupils demonstrated on grade level writing skills.[89]

2013 School Performance Profile

East Forest Elementary School achieved a score of 68.6 out of 100. The score reflects on grade level: reading, science, writing and mathematics achievement. In 2012-13, only 60% of the students were reading on grade level in grades 3rd through 6th. In math, 75.38% were on grade level (3rd-6th grades). In 4th grade science, 93% of the pupils demonstrated on grade level understanding. In writing, only 41% of 5th grade pupils demonstrated on grade level skills.[90]

AYP status history

In 2011 and 2012, East Forest Elementary School achieved Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) status.[91] From 2003 to 2010, East Forest Elementary School achieved AYP status school year.

PSSA History

Each year, in the Spring, in order to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind Law, the 3rd graders and sixth graders take the PSSAs in math and reading. The fourth grade is tested in reading, math and science. The fifth grade is evaluated in reading, mathematics and writing. Pennsylvania System of School Assessments, commonly called PSSAs are No Child Left Behind Act related examinations which were administered beginning 2003 to all Pennsylvania public school students in grades 3rd-8th.[92] The goal was for 100% of students to be on grade level or better in reading and mathematics, by the Spring of 2014.[93][94][95] The tests focused on the state's Academic Standards for reading, writing, mathematics and science. The Science exam is given to 4th grades and includes content in science, technology, ecology and the environmental studies.[96] The first cohort of children who attended Accountability Block Grant funded full-day kindergarten reached third grade and took the PSSAs in the spring of 2008.

4th Grade Science
  • 2012 - 100%, (0% below basic). State - 82%
  • 2011 - 90%, (0% below basic). State - 82.9%
  • 2010 - 94%, (0% below basic). State - 81%

West Forest Junior Senior High School[edit]

West Forest Junior Senior High School is located at 22318 Route 62 Box 15, Tionesta,. In 2015, the School enrollment was reported as 122 pupils in 7th through 12th grades, with 54.9% of pupils eligible for a free lunch due to family poverty. Additionally, 15.5% of pupils received special education services, while 0.82% of pupils were identified as gifted.[100] The school employed 12 teachers.[55] Per the Pennsylvania 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 2012, the school reported an enrollment of 138 pupils in grades 7th through 12th, with 66 pupils eligible for a federal free or reduced price lunch due to the family meeting the federal poverty level. In 2012, the School employed 12 teachers yielding a student-teacher ratio of 11:1.[101] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, several teachers were rated "Non‐Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind.[102]

2015 School Performance Profile

West Forest Junior Senior High School achieved 61 out of 100. Reflects on grade level reading, mathematics and science achievement.The PDE reported that 56% of the School’s students were on grade level in reading/literature. In math/Algebra 1, just 31% of students showed on grade level skills at the end of the course. In science/Biology I, 62% demonstrated on grade level science understanding at the end of the course.[103]

2014 School Performance Profile

West Forest Junior Senior High School achieved 73.8 out of 100. Reflects on grade level reading, mathematics and science achievement. In reading/literature - 73% of pupils were on grade level. In math/Algebra 1, 70% showed on grade level skills. In science/BiologyI, 68% demonstrated on grade level science understanding at the end of the course.[104]

2013 School Performance Profile

West Forest Junior Senior High School achieved 78.5 out of 100. Reflects on grade level reading, mathematics and science achievement. In reading/literature - 70% were on grade level. In math/Algebra 1, 72% showed on grade level skills. In science/BiologyI, 68% showed on grade level science understanding.[105]

AYP History: In 2012, West Forest Junior Senior High School declined to Warning AYP status due to missing all academic metrics measured.[106] In 2009 through 2011, the School achieved AYP status each school year.[107]

PSSA Results
11th Grade Reading
  • 2012 - 86% on grade level, (14% below basic). State - 67% of 11th graders are on grade level.[108]
  • 2011 - 76% (6% below basic). State - 69.1%[109]
  • 2010 - 69%, State - 67% (32 pupils)[110]
  • 2009 - 70%, State - 65% (30 pupils)[71]
  • 2008 - 67%, State - 65% (34 pupils)[111]
  • 2007 - 66%, State - 65% (42 pupils)
11th Grade Math:
  • 2012 - 57% on grade level (21% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 59% of 11th graders are on grade level.[72]
  • 2011 - 64% (15% below basic). State - 60.3%[112]
  • 2010 - 43%, State - 59%[113]
  • 2009 - 60%, State - 56%
  • 2008 - 50%, State - 56%
  • 2007 - 40%, State - 53%[114]
11th Grade Science:
  • 2012 - 53% on grade level (20% below basic). State - 42% of 11th graders were on grade level.[115]
  • 2011 - 55% (6% below basic). State - 40%[116]
  • 2010 - 37%, State - 40% of 11th graders were on grade level.[117]
  • 2009 - 36%, State - 40%[118]
  • 2008 - 33%, State - 39%[119]
8th Grade Reading:
  • 2012 - 63% on grade level (25% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 79% of 8th graders on grade level.[72]
  • 2011 - 97% (3% below basic) State - 81.8%[120]
  • 2010 - 72%, State - 81% (25 pupils)
  • 2009 - 68%, State - 80% (22 pupils)[121]
  • 2008 - 96%, State - 78% (26 pupils)[122]
  • 2007 - 79%, State - 75% (34 pupils)[123]
8th Grade Math:
  • 2012 - 60% on grade level (33% below basic). State - 76%[124]
  • 2011 - 90% (10% below basic). State - 76.9%
  • 2010 - 56%, State - 75%
  • 2009 - 68%, State - 71%
  • 2008 - 80%, State - 70%
  • 2007 - 70%, State - 67%
8th Grade Science:
  • 2012 - 24% on grade level (24% below basic). State - 59%[125]
  • 2011 - 65% (16% below basic). State - 58.3%
  • 2010 - 42% State - 57%
  • 2009 - 47%, State - 54%
  • 2008 - 64%, State - 52%

Dual enrollment[edit]

The high schools offer a dual enrollment program. This state program permits high school students to take courses, at local higher education institutions, to earn college credits. Students remain enrolled at their high school, including the graduation ceremony. The courses count towards high school graduation requirements and towards earning a college degree. The students continue to have full access to activities and programs at their high school. The college credits are offered at a deeply discounted rate. The state offers a small grant to assist students in costs for tuition, fees and books.[126] Under the Pennsylvania Transfer and Articulation Agreement, many Pennsylvania colleges and universities accept these credits for students who transfer to their institutions.[127] The Pennsylvania College Credit Transfer System reported in 2009, that students saved nearly $35.4 million by having their transferred credits count towards a degree under the new system.[128]

For the 2009-10 funding year, the school district received a state grant of $1,607 for the program.[129]

College remediation[edit]

According to a Pennsylvania Department of Education study released in January 2009, 15% of Forest Area School District 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.[130] 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.[131] Per the Pennsylvania Department of Education, one in three recent high school graduates who attend Pennsylvania's public universities and community colleges takes at least one remedial course in math, reading or English.

SAT scores[edit]

In 2014, 13 Forest Area School District students took the SAT exams. The District's Verbal Average Score was 469. The Math average score was 471. The Writing average score was 451.[132][133] 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.[134] In 2014, 1,672,395 students took the SATs in the United States.

In 2013, 11 Forest Area School District students took the SAT exams. The District's Verbal Average Score was 480. The Math average score was 419. The Writing average score was 457. 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.[135]

In 2012, 40 Forest Area School District students took the SAT exams. The District's Verbal Average Score was 482. The Math average score was 470. The Writing average score was 470. 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, 30 Forest Area School District students took the SAT exams. The District's Verbal Average Score was 485. The Math average score was 465. The Writing average score was 460.[136] Pennsylvania ranked 40th among states with SAT scores: Verbal - 493, Math - 501, Writing - 479.[137] 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.[138]

The Center for Rural Pennsylvania, a research arm of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, 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.[139] The Pennsylvania Department of Education reported that 71 percent of students in rural areas of Pennsylvania chose to continue their education after high school in 2003, whereas 79 percent of urban high school graduates opted to continue their education.

West Forest Elementary School[edit]

West Forest Elementary School is located at 22318 Route 62 Box 15, Tionesta. In 2015, the School's enrollment was 162 pupils in grades preschool through 6th, with 61.7% of pupils receiving a federal free or reduced price meals due to family poverty. Additionally, 18% of the pupils received special education services, while 0.6% were 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 as well as taxpayer funded, half day preschool.[141] The school is a federally designated Title I school.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2012, enrollment was 173 pupils in grades preschool through 6th, with 123 pupils receiving a free or reduced price lunch. The School employed 15 teachers yielding a student-teacher ratio of 12:1.[142] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of its teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.[85] West Forest Elementary School provided full day kindergarten to all its pupils along with preschool.[86]

2015 School Performance Profile

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 50% of 5th grade students at West Forest Elementary School were on grade level in reading on the PSSAs given in April 2015. In mathematics, 19% of 5th grade students showed on grade level skills. No fifth grade writing scores were reported. In 4th grade, 77% were on grade level in reading, while 50% showed on grade level math skills. In science, 94% of fourth graders showed on grade level understanding. Among third (3rd) graders, 46% were on grade level in reading and 50% were on grade level in mathematics. Among 6th graders, 76% were on grade level in reading and 59% were on grade level in mathematics.[143]

2014 School Performance Profile

West Forest Elementary School achieved a score of 70 out of 100. The score reflects on grade level: reading, science, writing and mathematics achievement. In 2013-14, only 62.5% of the students were reading on grade level in grades 3rd through 6th. In 3rd grade, 77.7% of the pupils were reading on grade level. In math, 51% were on grade level (3rd-6th grades). In 4th grade science, just 66.6% of the pupils demonstrated on grade level understanding. In writing, only 63% of 5th grade pupils demonstrated on grade level skills.[144]

2013 School Performance Profile

West Forest Elementary School achieved a score of 72.8 out of 100. The score reflects on grade level: reading, science, writing and mathematics achievement. In 2012-13, only 60% of the students were reading on grade level in grades 3rd through 6th. In 3rd grade, 47% of the pupils were reading on grade level. In math, 49% were on grade level (3rd-6th grades). In 4th grade science, 88% of the pupils demonstrated on grade level understanding. In writing, only 42.8% of 5th grade pupils demonstrated on grade level skills.[145]

AYP history

In 2012, West Forest Elementary School achieved AYP status even though it missed math and reading metrics. In 2011, the school achieved AYP status.[146] West Forest School District has provided full-day kindergarten for more than a decade.[147] and preschool.[148] Proponents of full day kindergarten claim it will reduce special education numbers and it will raise primary student academic achievement in reading.[149] Those outcomes have not been realized in the Forest Area School District. Reading achievement in particular has not improved.[150]

PSSA History
4th Grade Science
  • 2012 - 90%, (5% below basic). State - 82%
  • 2011 - 94%, (0% below basic). State - 82.9%

Special education[edit]

In December 2013, the District administration reported that 114 pupils or 23% of the district's pupils received Special Education services, with 42% of the identified students having a specific learning disability.[153] In December 2008, the district reported that 128 pupils or 22% of students were receiving special education services.[154][155] Special education services in the Commonwealth are provided to students from ages three years to 21 years old. In the 2010-2011 school year, the total student enrollment was more than 1.78 million students with approximately 275,000 students eligible for special education services. Among these students 18,959 were identified with mental retardation and 21,245 students with autism.[156] The largest group of students are identified as Specific Learning Disabilities 126,026 students (46.9 percent) and Speech or Language Impairments with 43,542 students (16.2 percent).

In 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.[157] Forest Area School District has provided full day kindergarten since 2003. The District has seen a slight increase in the percentage of special education students it serves, yielding no savings.

In order to comply with state and federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act rules and regulations. Forest Area School District provides a wide spectrum of special education services. 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.[158] Parents request an evaluation for services in writing. Parents who suspect their child is eligible may verbally request a multidisciplinary evaluation from a professional employee of the District or contact the Department of Special Education. The District is required to conduct child find activities for children who may be eligible for services via Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.[159][160] 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. When screening results suggest that the student may be eligible, the District seeks parental consent to conduct a multidisciplinary evaluation.

Students who have an Individual Education Plan (IEP) may take the PSSA-M an alternative math exam rather than the PSSA.[161] Some special education students may take the PASA (Pennsylvania Alternate System of Assessment), rather than the PSSA.[162] Schools are permitted to provide accommodations to some students.[163]

In 2010, the state of Pennsylvania provided $1,026,815,000 for Special Education services. The funds were distributed to districts based on a state policy which estimates that 16% of the district's pupils are receiving special education services. This funding is in addition to the state's basic education per pupil funding, as well as, all other state and federal funding.[164] 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.[165] 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.[166] 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.[167] In 2012, the Obama Administration's US Department of Education issued a directive requiring schools include students with disabilities in extracurricular activities, including sports.[168]

Forest Area School District received a $443,039 supplement for special education services in 2010.[169] For the 2011-12, 2012–13 and 2013-14 school years, all Pennsylvania public school districts received the same level of funding for special education that they received in 2010-11. This level funding is provided regardless of changes in the number of pupils who need special education services and regardless of the level of services the respective students required.[170][171] For the 2014-2015 school year, Forest Area School District received an increase to $443,039 from the Commonwealth for special education funding.[172]

Bullying policy[edit]

In 2009, the administrative reported there were no incidents of bullying in the district.[173][174]

The Forest Area School Board adopted a policy in July 2009 which prohibits bullying by district students and the faculty. The policy defines bullying and cyberbullying.[175] The Board directs that complaints of bullying shall be investigated promptly, and corrective action shall be taken when allegations are verified. No reprisals or retaliation shall occur as a result of good faith reports of bullying. The board expects staff members to be responsible to maintain an educational environment free from all forms of bullying. 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 their anti-bullying policies to the Office for Safe Schools every year, and shall review their policies every three years. Additionally, districts must conduct annual reviews of their policies with students.[176] 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.[177]

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.[178]

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.[179]

In 2013, the average teacher salary in Forest Area School District was $59,142 a year.[180] The District employed 125 teachers and administrators with a top salary of $95,000.[181][182] Pennsylvania teacher salaries (2013–14) are searchable in a statewide database provided by TribLive News.[183] Forest 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.)[184] After 40 years of service, Pennsylvania public school teachers and administrators 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.[185] In 2014-15, Pennsylvania public school district mandated teacher pension contribution rose to 21.40% of employee salaries and in 2015-16 it rose again to 25.84% of total salaries.[186] In 2014-15, the state mandated District contribution to the teacher pension fund rose to 21.40% of employee salaries and in 2015-16 it rose again to 25.84% of total District salaries.[187]

In 2009, the district reported employing over 58 teachers with a starting salary of $40,000 to $87,000 for a 183-day work year.[188] The average teacher salary is $55,585.[189] Additionally, the teachers receive a defined benefit pension, health insurance, vision insurance, dental insurance, college course reimbursement, 3 personal days, sick days, payment for unused sick days, a retirement bonus which includes all unused sick and personal days accumulated while working for the district and other benefits. Teachers are paid for extra instructional services.[190]

In 2007, the Forest Area School District employed 53 teachers and the average teacher salary in the district was $51,068 for 183 days worked.[191]

Administration costs Forest Area School District administrative costs per pupil, in 2008, were $1,450.53 per pupil.[192] Forest Area School District is ranked 9th among Pennsylvania's 500 districts for administrative spending. The lowest administrative cost per pupil in Pennsylvania was $398 per pupil.[193] Superintendents and administrators receive a benefit package commensurate with that offered to the district's teachers' union.[194]

Per pupil spending The District administration reported that per pupil spending in 2008 was $17,657 which ranked 493rd in the state's 501 school districts.[195] In 2013, the per pupil spending was reported as $19,765.25.[196] In 2011, Pennsylvania’s per pupil spending was $13,467, ranking 6th in the United States.[197] In 2007, the Pennsylvania per pupil total expenditures was reported as $12,759.[198]

The U.S. Census Bureau reported that Pennsylvania spent $8,191 per pupil in school year 2000-01.[199] In 2007, the Pennsylvania per pupil total expenditures was reported as $12,759.[200] Among the fifty states, Pennsylvania’s total per pupil revenue (including all sources) ranked 11th at $15,023 per student, in 2008-09.[201] Pennsylvania’s total revenue per pupil rose to $16,186 ranking 9th in the nation in 2011.[202]

Reserves In 2008, Forest Area School District administration reported an unreserved-undesignated fund balance of $2,951,202. The district had no unreserved designated fund.[203] In 2010, Forest Area School District Administration reported $263,294 in the reserved-designated fund balance. The District also reported $242,848 in its unreserved-undesignated fund in 2010. Total reserves were $2,170,724.00.[204] In 2013, Forest Area School District Administration reported $231,902 in the unreserved-undesignated fund balance. The District also reported zero in its unreserved-designated fund in 2013. Pennsylvania public school district reserve funds are divided into two categories – designated and undesignated. The undesignated funds are not committed to any planned project. Designated funds and any other funds, such as capital reserves, are allocated to specific projects. School districts are required by state law to keep 5 percent of their annual spending in the undesignated reserve funds to preserve bond ratings. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, from 2003 to 2010, as a whole, Pennsylvania school districts amassed nearly $3 billion in reserved funds.[205] In 2005, the total reserve funds held by Pennsylvania public school districts was $1.9 billion.[206] By 2013, reserves held by Pennsylvania public school districts, as a whole, had increased to over $3.8 billion.[207][208][209]

Audit In August 2010, the Pennsylvania Auditor General conducted a performance audit of the district. The findings were reported to the administration and the school board.[210]

Tuition Students who live in the Forest 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 Forest 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 District's schools. The 2013 tuition rates are Elementary School - $13,266.42, High School - $15,166.65.[211]

Forest Area School District is funded by a combination of: a local income tax, a property tax, a real estate transfer tax 0.5%, coupled with substantial funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the federal government.[212] Grants can provide an opportunity to supplement school funding without raising local taxes. Interest earnings on accounts also provide nontax income to the District. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, pension income and Social Security income are exempted from state personal income tax and local earned income tax, regardless of the level of the individual’s personal wealth.[213] 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.[214]

State basic education funding[edit]

According to a report from Representative Todd Stephens office, School District receives 42.8% of its annual revenue from the state.[215]

For the 2014-15 school year, Forest Area School District received $2,496,822 in State Basic Education funding. The District also received $50,204 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.[216] 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.[217]

In the 2013-14 school year, Forest Area School District received a 0.8% increase or $2,496,323 in Pennsylvania Basic Education Funding. This is $19,918 more than its 2012-13 state BEF to the District. Additionally, Forest Area School District received $30,839 in Accountability Block Grant funding to focus on academic achievement and level funding for special education services. The District had 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 increases 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.[218] The highest percent of state spending per student is in the Chester-Upland School District, where roughly 78 percent comes from state coffers. In Philadelphia, it is nearly 49 percent.[219] As a part of the education budget, the state provided the PSERS (Pennsylvania school employee pension fund) with $1,017,000,000 and Social Security payments for school employees of $495 million.[220]

For the 2012-13 school year, Forest Area School District received $2,476,405.[221] 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. Forest Area School District received $30,839 in Accountability Block Grant. The state also provided a $544.4 million payment for School Employees’ Social Security and $856 million for School Employees’ Retirement fund called PSERS.[222] 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.

In 2011-12 school year, Forest Area School District received $2,476,405 in state Basic Education Funding.[223] Additionally, the District received $30,839 in Accountability Block Grant funding.[224] The enacted Pennsylvania state Education budget includes $5,354,629,000 for the 2011-2012 Basic Education Funding appropriation. This amount is a $233,290,000 increase (4.6%) over the enacted State appropriation for 2010-2011. The highest increase in state basic education funding was awarded to Duquesne City School District, which got a 49% increase in state funding for 2011-12.[225] Districts experienced a reduction in federal funding due to the loss of federal stimulus funding which ended in 2011.

For the 2010-11 budget year, Forest Area School District was allotted a 2% increase in Basic Education Funding for a total of $2,576,451. One hundred fifty Pennsylvania school districts received the base 2% increase. The highest increase in 2010-11 went to Kennett Consolidated School District in Chester County which received a 23.65% increase in state funding.[226] The highest increase in state basic education funding was awarded to Duquesne City School District of Allegheny County, which got a 49% increase in state funding for 2011-12.[227] Fifteen (15) Pennsylvania public school districts received a BEF increase of greater than 10%. The state's hold harmless policy regarding state basic education funding continued where each district received at least the same amount as it received the prior school year, even when enrollment had significantly declined. The amount of increase each school district received was set by then Governor Edward Rendell and the Secretary of Education Gerald Zahorchak as a part of the state budget proposal given each February.[228] This was the second year of Governor Rendell’s policy to fund some public school districts at a far greater rate than others. In 2010, Forest Area School District reported that 269 pupils received a free or reduced-price lunch due to the family meeting the federal poverty level.

In the 2009-2010 budget year. the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provided a 2% increase in Basic Education Funding for a total of $2,525,933 to Forest Area School District.[229] Ninety Pennsylvania public school districts received a base 2% increase. Muhlenberg School District in Berks County received a 22.31% increase in state basic education funding in 2009.[230]

The state Basic Education Funding to the district in 2008-09 was $2,476,404. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 278 students, in the district, received free or reduced-price lunches due to low family income in the 2007-2008 school year.[231]

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.[232] By 2015, Pennsylvania is spending over $27 billion on public education (local, state and federal resources combined).[233]

Accountability Block Grants[edit]

Beginning in 2004-2005, the state launched the Accountability Block Grant school funding. This program has provided $1.5 billion to Pennsylvania’s school districts. The Accountability Block Grant program requires that its taxpayer dollars are focused on specific interventions that are most likely to increase student academic achievement. These interventions include: teacher training, all-day kindergarten, lower class size K-3rd grade, literacy and math coaching programs that provide teachers with individualized job-embedded professional development to improve their instruction, before or after school tutoring assistance to struggling students, For 2010-11 the Forest Area School District applied for and received $83,705 in addition to all other state and federal funding. The district used the funding to provide full-day kindergarten for the 7th year.[234][235]

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.[236]

Forest Area School District received $50,204 in Ready to Learn Grant dollars in addition to State Basic Education funding, Special Education funding, transportation reimbursement, PreK Counts preschool grants, reimbursement for Social Security payments for employees and other state grants which the district must apply to receive.

PreK Counts grant[edit]

Forest Area School District receives state funding to provide taxpayer funded preschool at the elementary school. For the 2013-14 school year, Forest Area School District failed to apply for a Pre K Counts grant.[237] For the 2008 school year, Forest Area School District was a high priority for funding due to the 46% poverty level of children in the district's attendance area.[238][239][240] Enrollment for Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts is targeted to children living in families earning up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level.

Classrooms for the Future grant[edit]

The Classroom for the Future state program provided districts with hundreds of thousands of extra state funding to buy laptop computers for each core curriculum high school class (English, Science, History, Math) and paid for teacher training to optimize the computers use. The program was funded from 2006-2009. Forest Area School District did not apply for funding in 2006-07 nor in 2007-08. In 2008-09, the District received $149,383. Of the 501 public school districts in Pennsylvania, 447 of them received Classrooms for the Future grant awards [241]

Education Assistance grant[edit]

The state's EAP funding provides for the continuing support of tutoring services and other programs to address the academic needs of eligible students. Funds are available to eligible school districts and full-time career and technology centers (CTC) in which one or more schools have failed to meet at least one academic performance target, as provided for in Section 1512-C of the Pennsylvania Public School Code. In 2010-11, the Forest Area School District did not apply for funding.[242]

Other grants[edit]

The District did not participate in: Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's Environmental Education annual grants;[243][244] PA Science Its Elementary grants (discontinued effective with 2009-10 budget by Governor Rendell);[245] 2012 Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy grant;[246] 2012 and 2013 Pennsylvania Hybrid Learning Grants;[247] Project 720 High School Reform grants[248] (discontinued effective with 2011-12 budget); nor the federal 21st Century Learning grants.

Federal funding[edit]

Forest Area School District received an extra $423,821 in ARRA - Federal Stimulus money to be used in specific programs like special education and meeting the academic needs of low-income students.[249][250] Due to the temporary nature of the funding, schools were repeatedly advised by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the Pennsylvania Senate Education Committee, the Governor and the Pennsylvania School Board Association, 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]

Forest Area School District officials did not apply for the Race to the Top federal grant. When approved for the grant, the District would have received hundreds of thousands in additional federal dollars for improving student academic achievement. in additional federal funding, to improve student academic achievement.[251] Participation required the administration, the school board and the local teachers' union to sign an agreement to prioritize improving student academic success.[252] In Pennsylvania, 120 public school districts and 56 charter schools agreed to participate.[253] Pennsylvania was not approved for the grant. According to then Governor Rendell, failure of districts to agree to participate was cited as one reason that Pennsylvania was not approved.[254]

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.[255] The funds are sent to the state Department of Education which distributes them to each school district and charter school.[256] 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, Forest Area School District received $52,626 in federal Title II funding.[257] In 2014-15, Forest Area School District applied for and received $50,779.[258]

Common Cents state initiative[edit]

The Forest Area School Board did not participate in the Pennsylvania Department of Education Common Cents program. The program called for the state to audit the district, at no cost to local taxpayers, to identify ways the district could save tax dollars.[259] After the review of the information, the district was not required to implement the recommended cost savings changes.

Real estate taxes[edit]

The school board levied a real estate tax of 73.7200 mills in 2015-16 for residents in Forest County. Elk County residents - 41.7600 mills. For Venango County residents - 14.1700 mills.[260] A mill is $1 of tax for every $1,000 of a property's assessed value.[261] 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. According to state tax policy, natural gas and oil pipelines are exempted from property taxes. 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.[262][263] When a Pennsylvania public school district includes municipalities in two or more counties, (Forest Area School District includes three counties) each of which has different rates of property tax assessment, a state board equalizes the tax rates between the counties.[264] 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.[265]

Forest Area School District is adversely impacted by the presence of the federal Allegheny National Forest. Since 1911, states have received funds from the federal government to offset the loss of property tax revenues which occurred with the establishment of National Forest lands within their borders. For decades, this reimbursement has been set as 25 percent of all receipts from commercial activities on these federal lands, including timber sales. Since the late 1980s and 1990s, the country has a seen a tremendous decline in timber harvests, which has meant a decline in payments to Forest Area School District. Congress passed the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (SRSCA) of 2000, which subsidized payments to counties/school districts and took into consideration historic payment levels before the decline. Forest County was the first to accept the alternate payment from the federal government. It has had a negative outcome for the school district.[266][267][268]

  • 2014-15 - Forest County - 71.1700 mills. Elk County - 40.7200 mills, Venango County - 13.8000 mills.
  • 2013-14 - Forest County - 68.7400 mills. Elk County - 36.0900 mills, Venango County - 12.2100 mills.
  • 2012-13 - Forest County - 66.1800 mills. Elk County - 34.9600 mills, Venango County - 11.8700 mills.
  • 2011-12 - Forest County - 64.4100 mills. Elk County - 38.8700 mills, Venango County - 11.0100 mills.
  • 2010-11 - Forest County - 60.1900 mills. Elk County - 35.000 mills, Venango County - 9.9300 mills.
  • 2009-10 - Forest County - 61.8500 mills. Elk County - 30.4400 mills, Venango County - 9.1300 mills.[269]
  • 2008-09 - Forest County - 57.0300 mills. Elk County - 28.3500 mills, Venango County - 8.4500 mills.[270]
  • 2007-08 - Forest County - 53.5600 mills. Elk County - 29.3000 mills, Venango County - 8.1900 mills.[271]
  • 2006-07 - Forest County - 52.4400 mills. Elk County - 28.8200 mills, Venango County - 7.8900 mills.[272] In 2005, Elk County conducted a property assessment reevaluation. This led to a reducing of the millage charged, but remained revenue neutral to the district.[273]
  • 2005-06 - Forest County - 58.5000 mills. Elk County - 65.5000 mills, Venango County - 8.9000 mills.[274]

The average yearly property tax paid by Forest County residents amounts to about 2.38% of their yearly income. Forest County ranked 1076th out of the 3143 United States counties for property taxes as a percentage of median income.[275] 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.[276] 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%).[277] Pennsylvania's 2011 tax burden of 10.35% ranked 10th highest out of 50 states. The tax burden was above the national average of 9.8%. Pennsylvania's taxpayers paid $4,374 per capita in state and local taxes, including school taxes.[278]

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 the Act 1 Index can be adjusted higher, depending on a number of factors, such as property values and the personal income of district residents. Act 1 included 10 exceptions, including: increasing pension costs, increases in special education costs, a catastrophe like a fire or flood, increase in health insurance costs for contracts in effect in 2006 or dwindling tax bases. The base index is the average of the percentage increase in the statewide average weekly wage, as determined by the PA Department of Labor and Industry, for the preceding calendar year and the percentage increase in the Employment Cost Index for Elementary and Secondary Schools, as determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the U.S. Department of Labor, for the previous 12-month period ending June 30. For a school district with a market value/personal income aid ratio (MV/PI AR) greater than 0.4000, its index equals the base index multiplied by the sum of .75 and its MV/PI AR for the current year.[279]

In June 2011, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed legislation eliminating six of the exceptions to the Act 1 Index.[280] 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.[281][282] The legislature also froze the payroll amount public school districts use to calculate the pension-plan exception at the 2012 payroll levels. Further increases in payroll cannot be used to raise the district’s exception for pension payments. A specific timeline for Act I Index decisions is published annually, by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.[283]

The School District Adjusted Index for the Forest Area School District 2006–2007 through 2011–2012.

For the 2015–16 budget year, Forest Area School Board again applied for an exception to exceed their Act 1 Index limit: for its rapidly rising teacher pension costs. 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.[291]

For the 2014–15 budget year, Forest Area School Board applied for an exception to exceed their Act 1 Index limit, due to the rising teacher pension costs. In 2014–15, all Pennsylvania school districts were required to make a 21.4% of payroll payment to the teacher pension fund (PSERS).[292] 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.[293]

For the 2013–14 budget year, Forest Area School Board applied for one exception to exceed their Act 1 Index limit, due to the rapidly increasing teacher pension costs. In 2013–14, all Pennsylvania school districts were required to make a 16.93% of payroll payment to the teachers' pension fund (PSERS). For the school budget year 2013-14, 311 Pennsylvania public school districts adopted a resolution certifying that tax rates would not be increased above their index. Another 171 school districts adopted a preliminary budget leaving open the option of exceeded the Index limit. For the pension costs exception, 169 school districts received approval to exceed the Index. For special education costs, 75 districts received approval to exceed their tax limit. Eleven Pennsylvania public school districts received an approval for grandfathered construction debts.[294]

For the 2012–13 budget year, Forest Area School Board applied for one exception to exceed the Act 1 Index, due to the teacher pension costs. In 2012-13, all Pennsylvania school districts were required to make a 12.36% of payroll payment to the teachers' pension fund (PSERS). For 2012-2013 budget year, 274 school districts adopted a resolution certifying that tax rates would not be increased above their index; while 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.[295]

For the 2011–12 school year, Forest Area School Board applied for exceptions to exceed the Act 1 Index: pension obligations and special education costs. Each year, the Forest 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.[296] With the 2011 state education budget, the General Assembly repealed most of the Act 1 tax increase exceptions leaving only special education costs, pension costs and prior voter approved (ballot referendum) debt for construction. The cost of construction projects in the future will go to the voters for approval via ballot referendum. Districts can no longer raise property taxes to cover increasing health insurance costs for employees.[297]

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.[298]

The Forest Area School Board did not apply for any exceptions to exceed the Act 1 index for the budget in 2011.[299] 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.[300]

Property tax relief[edit]

In 2010, the Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Relief from gambling for the Forest Area School District was $146 per approved permanent primary residence. In the district, 1,593 property owners applied for the tax relief.[301] This was the highest tax relief provided in Fulton County. The property tax relief was subtracted from the total annual school property tax bill. Property owners apply for the relief through the county Treasurer's office. Farmers can qualify for a farmstead exemption on building used for agricultural purposes. The farm must be at least 10 contiguous acres (40,000 m2) and must be the primary residence of the owner. Farmers can qualify for both the homestead exemption and the farmstead exemption. Pennsylvania awarded the highest property tax relief to residents of the Chester-Upland School District in Delaware County at $641 per homestead and farmstead in 2010.[302] CUSD was given $632 in 2009. This was the second year they were the top recipient.

A special investigation conducted by the Pennsylvania Auditor General found that 70.83% of homeowners in Forest County, had applied for the tax relief.[303]

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

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%).[304]

Extracurriculars[edit]

The district's students have access to a variety of clubs, activities and sports. Eligibility for participation is determined by the school board policy.[305]

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.[306]

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