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Hopewell Area School District

Hopewell Area School District is a small, suburban public school district located in Beaver County, Pennsylvania. It serves the townships of Hopewell, Raccoon, and Independence. Hopewell Area School District encompasses approximately 62 square miles (160 km2). According to 2000 federal census data, it serves a resident population of 19,453. In 2009, the district residents’ per capita income was $20,145, while the median family income was $53,197.[4] In the commonwealth, the median family income was $49,501 [5] and the United States median family income was $49,445, in 2010.[6]

Hopewell Area School District
Map of Beaver County Pennsylvania School Districts.png
2354 Brodhead Road
, Beaver County, Pennsylvania, 15002
United States
District information
GradesK-8
Presidentjake paul
SuperintendentCharles M. Reina[1]
Students and staff
Enrollment2441 pupils (2010-11) [2]
Enrollment projected to be 2295 in 2019[3]
Teachers158
District mascotViking
ColorsBlue and Gold
         
Other information
Websitewww.hopewell.k12.pa.us

Hopewell Area School District officials, in school year 2007-08, reported that the district provided basic educational services to 2,636 pupils through the employment of 189 teachers, 125 full-time and part-time support personnel, and 13 administrators. Hopewell Area School District received more than $14.3 million in state funding in school year 2007-08.

SchoolsEdit

The district operates five schools.

The district's facilities include an indoor pool which is made available to the public for a fee.

GovernanceEdit

The school district is governed by nine individually elected board members (serve four-year terms), the Pennsylvania State Board of Education, the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Pennsylvania General Assembly.[12] The federal government controls programs it funds like Title I funding for low-income children in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the No Child Left Behind Act, which mandates the district focus resources on student success in acquiring reading and math skills.

The Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives Sunshine Review gave the Hopewell Area School Board and the Hopewell Area School 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.[13]

Academic achievementEdit

Hopewell Area School District was ranked 170th out of 498 Pennsylvania school districts by the Pittsburgh Business Times in 2012.[14] The ranking was based on student academic achievement as demonstrated on five years of the PSSAs for: reading, writing math and three years of science.[15]

  • 2011 - 128th [16]
  • 2010 - 105th [17]
  • 2009 - 143rd
  • 2008 - 148th
  • 2007 - 180th out of 501 school districts.[18]

In 2012, the Pittsburgh Business Times also reported an Overachievers Ranking for 498 Pennsylvania school districts. Hopewell Area School District ranked 352nd.[19] The editor describes the ranking as: "a ranking answers the question - which school districts do better than expectations based upon economics? This rank takes the Honor Roll rank and adds the percentage of students in the district eligible for free and reduced-price lunch into the formula. A district finishing high on this rank is smashing expectations, and any district above the median point is exceeding expectations."[20]

  • 2011 - 263rd
  • 2010 - 250th
  • 2009 - 268th
Allegheny Region ranking

(includes 104 public school districts in: Beaver, Allegheny, Fayette, Armstrong, Westmoreland, Washington and Butler counties.)

  • 2012 - 43rd [21]
  • 2011 - 33rd
  • 2010 - 29th [22]
  • 2009 - 39th

In 2009, the academic achievement of the students of Hopewell Area School District was in the 81st percentile among 500 Pennsylvania school districts. Scale - (0-99; 100 is state best) [23]

Graduation rateEdit

In 2011, the graduation rate was 97%.[24] In 2010, the Pennsylvania Department of Education issued a new, 4-year cohort graduation rate. Hopewell Senior High School's rate was 94% for 2010.[25]

According to traditional graduation rate calculations

High schoolEdit

Hopewell High School is located at 1215 Longvue Avenue, Aliquippa. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the school reported an enrollment of 901 pupils in grades 9th through 12th, with 192 pupils eligible for a federal free or reduced-price lunch. The school employed 56 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 16:1.[30] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 3 teachers were rated "Non‐Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind.[31]

In 2010 and 2011, Hopewell High School achieved AYP status.[32]

11th Grade Reading

  • 2011 - 76% on grade level, (13% below basic). State - 69.1% of 11th graders are on grade level.[33]
  • 2010 - 79% (7% below basic). State - 66% [34]
  • 2009 - 83% (5% below basic). State - 65% [35]
  • 2008 - 72% (13% below basic). State - 65% [36]
  • 2007 - 67% (12% below basic). State - 65% [37]

11th Grade Math:

  • 2011 - 67% on grade level (21% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 60.3% of 11th graders are on grade level.[38]
  • 2010 - 72% (14% below basic). State - 59%
  • 2009 - 75% (11% below basic). State - 56%.
  • 2008 - 59% (24% below basic). State - 56%
  • 2007 - 55% (24% below basic). State - 53%

11th Grade Science:

  • 2011 - 57% on grade level (11% below basic). State - 40% of 11th graders were on grade level.[39]
  • 2010 - 48% (8% below basic). State - 39%
  • 2009 - 52% (4% below basic). State - 40% [40]
  • 2008 - 38% (10% below basic). State - 39% [41]

College remediation rateEdit

According to a Pennsylvania Department of Education study released in January 2009, 26% of the Hopewell 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.[42] 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.[43] 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 enrollmentEdit

Hopewell High School offers 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. The courses count towards high school graduation requirements and towards earning a college degree. The students continue to have full access to activities and programs at their high school. The college credits are offered at a deeply discounted rate. The state offered a small grant to assist students in costs for tuition, fees and books.[44] Under the Pennsylvania Transfer and Articulation Agreement, many Pennsylvania colleges and universities accept these credits for students who transfer to their institutions.[45] For the 2009-10 funding year, the Hopewell School District received a state grant of $4,874 for the program.[46]

Graduation requirementsEdit

The Hopewell Area School Board has determined that a pupil must earn 22.5 credits to graduate, including: math 3 units, English 4 units, social studies 3 units, science 3 units, Physical Education .25 unit each year, Health 0.5 unit, 3 units arts humanities and electives.[47]

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.[48]

By Pennsylvania School Board regulations, for the graduating class of 2016, students must demonstrate successful completion of secondary level course work in Algebra I, Biology, English Composition, and Literature for which the Keystone Exams serve as the final course exams. Students’ Keystone Exam scores shall count for at least one-third of the final course grade.[49][50][51] 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.[52] Individual student, school or district reports were not made public, although they were reported to district officials by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

SAT scoresEdit

From January to June 2011, 151 Hopewell Area School District students took the SAT exams. The district's Verbal Average Score was 473. The Math average score was 504. The Writing average score was 462.[53] Pennsylvania ranked 40th among states with SAT scores: Verbal - 493, Math - 501, Writing - 479.[54] 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.[55]

Junior schoolEdit

Hopewell Junior High School is located at 2354 Brodhead Road, Aliquippa. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the school reported an enrollment of 770 pupils in grades 5th through 8th, with 180 pupils receiving a federal free or reduced-price lunch due to family poverty. The school employed 51 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 15:1.[56] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of the teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.[57]

In 2010 and 2011, Hopewell Junior High School achieved AYP status.[58]

PSSA Results:

8th Grade Science:

  • 2011 - 63% on grade level (16% below basic). State – 58.3% of 8th graders were on grade level.
  • 2010 - 68% (17% below basic). State – 57% [63]
  • 2009 - 59% (19% below basic). State - 55% [64]
  • 2008 - 57% (16% below basic). State - 52% [65]
  • 2007 - tested, but results not made public.

Elementary schoolsEdit

Hopewell Elementary School is located at 3000 Kane Road, Aliquippa. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the school reported an enrollment of 324 pupils in grades kindergarten through 4th, with 104 pupils receiving a federal free or reduced-price lunch. The school employed 20.7 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 15:1.[69] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of the teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind.[70]

In 2010 and 2011, Hopewell Elementary School achieved AYP status.[71]

4th Grade Science
  • 2011 - 86%, (5% below basic), State – 82.9%
  • 2010 - 91%, (3% below basic), State - 81%
  • 2009 - 98%, (0% below basic), State - 83%
  • 2008 - 91%, (0% below basic), State - 81%

Independence Elementary School is located at 103 School Road, Aliquippa. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the school reported an enrollment of 292 pupils in grades kindergarten through 4th, with 90 pupils received a federal free or reduced-price lunch. The school employed 17 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 17:1.[73] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of the teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.[74]

In 2010 and 2011, Elementary School achieved AYP status.[75]

4th Grade Science
  • 2011 - 98%, 65% advanced. State – 82.9%
  • 2010 - 96%, 70% advanced. State - 81%
  • 2009 - 94%, 65% advanced. State - 83%
  • 2008 - 95%, 58% advanced. State - 81%

Margaret Ross Elementary School is located at 1955 Maratta Road, Aliquippa. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the school reported an enrollment of 164 pupils in grades kindergarten through 4th, with 48 pupils eligible for a federal free or reduced-price lunch. The school employed 13.5 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 12:1.[77] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of the teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind.[78] In 2010 and 2011, Margaret Ross Elementary School achieved AYP status.[79] In 2011, 80% of the students were reading on grade level in grades 3rd through 4th. In math, 90% of the students in 3rd through 4th grades were on grade level and 51% scored advanced. In 4th grade science, 91% of the pupils were on grade level.[80]

4th Grade Science
  • 2011 - 91%, (0% below basic), State – 82.9%
  • 2010 - 100% on grade level 60% advanced. State - 81%

Special educationEdit

In December 2010, the district administration reported that 377 pupils or 15% of the district's pupils received Special Education services. Of the identified students, 52% had a specific learning disability. In December 2009, the district administration reported that 368 pupils or 14% of the district's pupils received Special Education services, with 54% of them having a specific learning disability.[81]

In order to comply with state and federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act rules and regulations, Hopewell Area School 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 .[82] To identify students who may be eligible for special education services, 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 Special Education administration. 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 district's Special Education Department.[83][84]

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.[85] 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.[86] The state requires each district to have a three-year special education plan to meet the unique needs of its special education students.[87] Overidentification of students, in order to increase state funding, has been an issue in the Commonwealth. Some districts have more than 20% of its students receiving special education services while others have 10% supported through special education.[88]

The Hopewell Area School District received a $1,698,646 supplement for special education services in 2010.[89] For the 2011-12 school year, all Pennsylvania public school districts received the same level of funding for special education that they received in 2010-11. This level funding is provided regardless of changes in the number of pupils who need special education services and regardless of the level of services the respective students required.[90]

In 2009, Hopewell Area School District was identified by the Pennsylvania Department of Education for Least Restrictive Environment monitoring. One hundred ninety six schools districts were selected in 2008-09. The district received an alert letter from the PDE - Bureau of Special Education.[91] School districts were placed in one of three categories: Tier 1, Tier 2 or Tier 3. The district was placed in Tier 3 due to students spending more than 60% of the school day, outside of regular education. The monitoring is a product of the PDE addressing its voluntary settlement in Gaskin V. Pennsylvania which ordered that special education students spend most of their school day (80%) in regular education classrooms with supplementary aids and services to assist funded by the taxpayers.[92][93][94] In 2010, the district was removed from the monitoring list.[95]

Gifted educationEdit

The Hopewell Area School District Administration reported that 96 or 3.58% of its students were gifted in 2009.[96] By law, the district must provide mentally gifted programs at all grade levels. The referral process for a gifted evaluation can be initiated by teachers or parents by contacting the student's building principal and requesting an evaluation. All requests must be made in writing. To be eligible for mentally gifted programs in Pennsylvania, a student must have a cognitive ability of at least 130 as measured on a standardized ability test by a certified school psychologist. Other factors that indicate giftedness will also be considered for eligibility.[97][98][99]

Wellness policyEdit

Hopewell Area School Board established a district wellness policy in November 2006.[100] 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 policy calls for annual testing to track student progress on the Health, Safety and Physical Education academic standards. This testing is not required by state or Federal law.

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, public school districts were required to involve a broad group of individuals in policy development and to have a plan for measuring policy implementation. Districts were offered a choice of levels of implementation for limiting or prohibiting low nutrition foods on the school campus. In final implementation these regulations prohibit some foods and beverages on the school campus.[101] The Pennsylvania Department of Education required all Pennsylvania public school districts to submit a copy of the policy for approval.

Highmark Healthy High 5 grantEdit

In 2011, Hopewell Area School District received funding through a Highmark Healthy High 5 grant. The District received $9,641 which was used to fund the Inspire Me Fitness Health and Skill-related fitness by working out on the Railyard Program.[102] 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.

BudgetEdit

In 2009, Hopewell Area School District reported employing 209 teachers and administrators with an average salary of $59,567 and a top salary of $114,187.[103] Additionally, the teachers receive a defined benefit pension, health insurance, vision insurance, dental insurance, professional development reimbursement, paid personal days, 10 paid sick days, and other benefits.[104][105] In 2011, the average teacher salary at Hopewell Area School District was $60,526 a year, while the cost of the benefits teachers receive was $17,625.02 per employee, for a total annual average teacher compensation of $70,150.56.[106] 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: their state mandated and run defined benefit pension, retiree health benefits and job security.

In 2007, the district employed 174 teachers. The average teacher salary in the district was $54,166 for 180 days worked.[107] As of 2007, Pennsylvania ranked in the top 10 states in average teacher salaries. When adjusted for cost of living Pennsylvania ranked fourth in the nation for teacher compensation.[108]

Hopewell Area School District administrative costs per pupil in 2008 was $665.13 per pupil. The District employed 13 administrators in 2010. The lowest administrative cost per pupil in Pennsylvania was $398 per pupil.[109] The Pennsylvania School Boards Association keeps statistics on salaries of public school district employees in Pennsylvania. According to the Association's report, superintendents and administrators receive a benefit package commensurate with that offered to the local school district's teachers' union benefit plan.[110]

In 2008, the district administration reported that its per pupil spending was $11,297 per child, which ranked 367th among Pennsylvania's 501 school districts. In 2010, the per pupil spending had increased to $15,396.20 which ranked 92nd in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania [111] Among the states, Pennsylvania's total per pupil revenue (including all sources) ranked 11th at $15,023 per student, in 2008-09.[112] In 2007, the Pennsylvania per pupil total expenditures was $12,759.[113]

Reserves In 2008, Hopewell Area School District reported a balance of $3,500,000 in an unreserved-designated fund. The unreserved-undesignated fund balance was reported as $2,370,764. [114] In 2010, Hopewell Area School District Administration reported an increase to $4,800,000.00 in the unreserved-designated fund and $2,613,812. in its unreserved-undesignated fund. The district's total reserves were 7,413,812. in 2010. Pennsylvania school district reserve funds are divided into two categories – designated and undesignated. The undesignated funds are not committed to any planned project. Designated funds and any other funds, such as capital reserves, are allocated to specific projects. School districts are required by state law to keep 5 percent of their annual spending in the undesignated reserve funds to preserve bond ratings. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, from 2003 to 2010, as a whole, Pennsylvania school districts amassed nearly $3 billion in reserved funds.[115]

In December 2010, the Pennsylvania Auditor General conducted a performance audit of the district. The findings were reported to the school board and administration.[116]

The Hopewell Area School Board approved a proposed $34.36 million budget for 2012-13 which included a property tax increase despite the District having substantial "rainy day" reserve funds. In accordance with Pennsylvania public school law, the proposed budget was available for public inspection at the district's business office in Hopewell Township.

The district is funded by a combination of: a local earned 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.[117] 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.[118]

State basic education fundingEdit

In 2011-12, Hopewell Area School District received a $9,313,053 allocation, of state Basic Education Funding.[119][120] Additionally, the School District received $192,417 in Accountability Block Grant funding. The enacted Pennsylvania state Education budget included $5,354,629,000 for the 2011-2012 Basic Education Funding appropriation. This amount is a $233,290,000 increase (4.6%) over the enacted State appropriation for 2010-2011.[121] 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.[122] In 2010, Hopewell Area School District reported that 624 students received free or reduced-price lunches, due to the family meeting the federal poverty level.[123]

In the 2010-2011 budget year, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provided a 5.07% increase in Basic Education Funding for a total of $10,262,572. Among the districts in Beaver County, the highest increase went to Midland Borough School District which got a 7.57% increase. 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.[124] The state's hold harmless policy regarding state basic education funding continued where a district received at least the same amount as the year before, even where enrollment had significantly declined. The amount of increase each school district received was set by Governor Edward Rendell and then Secretary of Education Gerald Zahorchak, as a part of the state budget proposal given each February. This was the second year of Governor Rendell's policy to fund some Pennsylvania public school districts at a much greater rate than other public school districts.

In the 2009-2010 budget year, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provided a 4.88% increase in Basic Education Funding for a total of $10,408,438 to Hopewell Area School District. Among the districts in Beaver County, the highest increase went to Big Beaver Falls Area School District which got a 5.26%. The state Basic Education Funding to the district in 2008-09 was $9,888,315.04. Ninety Pennsylvania school districts received a 2% increase. Muhlenberg School District in Berks County received a 22.31% increase in state basic education funding in 2009.[125] The amount of increase each school district received was set by Governor Edward G. Rendell and the Secretary of Education Gerald Zahorchak, as a part of the state budget proposal.[126] According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 562 district students received free or reduced-price lunches due to low family income in the 2007–2008 school year.[127]

Accountability Block GrantsEdit

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 district applied for and received $437,324 in addition to all other state and federal funding. The district uses the funding to provide full-day kindergarten, to pay teachers to develop new curriculum and course offerings and to increase instructional time.[128][129]

Classrooms for the Future grantEdit

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. The Hopewell Area School District did not apply to participate in 2006-07. In 2007-08, received $205,756. The district received $75,278 in 2008-09 for a total funding of $281,034.[130] In Beaver County, the highest award was given to Freedom Area School District at $476,723. The highest funding statewide was awarded to Philadelphia City School District in Philadelphia County - $9,409,073. In 2010, Classrooms for the Future funding was curtailed statewide due to a massive state financial crisis.

Science It’s Elementary grantEdit

None of the elementary schools in Hopewell Area School District applied to participate and received a Science It's Elementary grant in 2008-09. In Beaver County, two elementary schools participated. For the 2008-09 school year, the program was offered in 143 schools reaching 2,847 teachers and 66,973 students across Pennsylvania.[131] In 2007, the Pennsylvania Department of Education initiated an effort to improve science instruction in the Commonwealth's public elementary schools. Called Science: It's Elementary, the program is a hands on instruction approach for elementary science classes that develops problem-solving and critical thinking skills.[132] To encourage schools to adopt the program's standards aligned curriculum, the state provided a grant to cover the costs of materials and extensive mandatory teacher training.[133] Participating districts were required to develop a three-year implementation plan for the participating school. They had to appoint a district liaison who was paid $3000 by PDE to serve as the conduit of all information between the district and the Department and its agents along with submitting orders and distributing supplies to implementing teachers. For the 2006-07 state education budget, $10 million was allocated. The 2006-07 State Education Budget provided $635 million in new spending for pre-K through 12th grades for the 2006-07 school year. This marks an 8-percent increase over 2005-06 public school funding.[134] The grant program was expanded to $14.5 million in the 2008-09 budget.

Federal Stimulus grantEdit

The Hopewell Area School District received an extra $3,171,096 in ARRA - Federal Stimulus money to be used in specific programs like special education and meeting the academic needs of low-income students.[135] The funding was limited to the 2009–10 and 2010-2011 school years.[136] 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 grantEdit

District officials did not apply for the federal Race to the Top grant which would have provided over one million dollars in additional federal funding to improve student academic achievement.[137] Participation required the administration, the school board and the local teachers' union to sign an agreement to prioritize improving student academic success. In Pennsylvania, 120 public school districts and 56 charter schools agreed to participate.[138] Pennsylvania was not approved for the grant. The failure of districts to agree to participate was cited as one reason that Pennsylvania was not approved.[139][140][141]

Common Cents state initiativeEdit

The Hopewell Area School Board elected to 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.[142] After the review of the information, Hopewell Area School District School Board was not required to implement the recommended cost savings changes.

Real estate taxesEdit

Property tax rates in 2011-12 were set by the school board at 67.0000 mills. A mill is $1 of tax for every $1,000 of a property's assessed value. Irregular property reassessments have become a serious issue in the commonwealth as it creates a significant disparity in taxation within a community and across a region.[143] Property taxes, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, apply only to real estate - land and buildings. The property tax is not levied on cars, business inventory, or other personal property. Certain types of property are exempt from property taxes, including: places of worship, places of burial, private social clubs, charitable and educational institutions and government property. Additionally, service related, disabled US military veterans may seek an exemption from paying property taxes. Pennsylvania school district revenues are dominated by two main sources: 1) Property tax collections, which account for the vast majority (between 75-85%) of local revenues; and 2) Act 511 tax collections, which are around 15% of revenues for school districts.[144] When the school district includes municipalities in two counties, each of which has different rates of property tax assessment, a state board equalizes the tax rates between the respective counties.[145] In 2010, miscalculations by the board were widespread in the Commonwealth and adversely impacted funding for many school districts.[146]

  • 2010-11 - 67.0000 mills [147]
  • 2009-10 - 66.0000 mills.[148]
  • 2008-09 - 66.0000 mills.[149]
  • 2007-08 - 66.0000 mills.[150]
  • 2006-07 - 66.0000 mills.[151]

Act 1 Adjusted IndexEdit

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

The School District Adjusted Index for the Hopewell Area School District 2006-2007 through 2011-2012.[156]

  • 2006-07 - 5.2%, Base 3.9%
  • 2007-08 - 4.6%, Base 3.4%
  • 2008-09 - 5.9%, Base 4.4%
  • 2009-10 - 5.5%, Base 4.1%
  • 2010-11 - 4.0%, Base 2.9%
  • 2011-12 - 1.9%, Base 1.4%
  • 2012-13 - 2.3%, Base 1.7% [157]

For the 2012-13 budget year, Hopewell Area School Board did not apply for exceptions to exceed the Act 1 Index. For 2012-2013, 274 school districts adopted a resolution certifying that tax rates would not be increased above their index; 223 school districts adopted a preliminary budget leaving open the option of exceeded the Index limit. For the exception for pension costs, 194 school districts received approval to exceed the Index. For special education costs, 129 districts received approval to exceed the tax limit. For the exception for pension costs, 194 school districts received approval to exceed the Index. For special education costs, 129 districts received approval to exceed the tax limit.[158]

For the 2011-12 school year, the Hopewell Area School Board did not apply for an exception to exceed the Act 1 Index. Each year, the Hopewell Area School Board has the option of adopting either 1) a resolution in January certifying they will not increase taxes above their index or 2) a preliminary budget in February. A school district adopting the resolution may not apply for referendum exceptions or ask voters for a tax increase above the inflation index. A specific timeline for these decisions is published annually, by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.[159]

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.[160]

The Hopewell Area School Board did not apply for any exceptions to exceed the Act 1 index for the budget in 2011.[161] For 2009-10 school budget, the board did not apply for exceptions to exceed the Index.[162] 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.[163]

Property tax reliefEdit

In 2010, the Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Relief from gambling for the Hopewell Area School District was $209 per approved permanent primary residence. In the district, 5,502 property owners applied for the tax relief.[164] The relief was subtracted from the total annual school property tax bill. Property owners apply for the relief through the county Treasurer's office. Farmers can qualify for a farmstead exemption on building used for agricultural purposes. The farm must be at least 10 contiguous acres (40,000 m2) and must be the primary residence of the owner. Farmers can qualify for both the homestead exemption and the farmstead exemption. In Beaver County, 64% of eligible property owners applied for property tax relief in 2009.[165] In Beaver County, the highest amount of tax relief in 2010, went to property owners in the Big Beaver Falls Area School District, who received $352. The highest property tax relief in Pennsylvania went to the property owners of Chester Upland School District of Delaware County who received $632 per approved homestead.[166] This was the third year they were the top recipient.

Additionally, the Pennsylvania Property Tax/Rent Rebate program is provided for low income Pennsylvanians aged 65 and older; widows and widowers aged 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older. The income limit is $35,000 for homeowners. The maximum rebate for both homeowners and renters is $650. Applicants can exclude one-half (1/2) of their Social Security income, consequently, individual with income much more than $35,000 may still qualify for a rebate. Individuals must apply annually for the rebate. This can be taken in addition to Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Relief.[167]

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%).[168]

ExtracurricularsEdit

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

By Pennsylvania law, all K-12 students residing in the district, including those who attend a private nonpublic school, cyber charter school, charter school and those homeschooled, are eligible to participate in the extracurricular programs, including all athletics. They must meet the same eligibility rules as the students enrolled in the district's schools.[169]

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External linksEdit