Portage Area School District is governed by 9 individually elected board members (serve without compensation for a term of four years), the Pennsylvania State Board of Education, the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Pennsylvania General Assembly. 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 regarding renewal of the employment contract.
In 2015, Portage Area School District does not provide its policy manual online nor its financial data like: employment contracts and annual budget information.
In 2015, Portage Area School District ranked 155th out of 493 Pennsylvania public school districts, by the Pittsburgh Business Times. 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. 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.2014 - 146th
2013 - 146th
2012 - 157th
2008 - 282nd
2007 - 224th out of 501 school districts.
In 2012, Portage Area School District achieved Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) status. In 2011, Portage Area School District achieved Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). In 2011, 94 percent of the 500 Pennsylvania public school districts achieved the No Child Left Behind Act progress level of 72% of students reading on grade level and 67% of students demonstrating on grade level math. In 2011, 46.9 percent of Pennsylvania school districts achieved Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) based on student performance. An additional 37.8 percent of Pennsylvania public school districts made AYP based on a calculated method called safe harbor, 8.2 percent on the growth model and 0.8 percent on a two-year average performance. Portage Area School District achieved AYP status each year from 2003 to 2010.
In 2014, the Portage Area School District’s graduation rate was 89.7%.2013 - 92.6%
2012 - 92.5%.
2011 - 96%.
2010 - 92.5%, the Pennsylvania Department of Education issued a new, 4-year cohort graduation rate. Area High School's rate was 97.8% for 2010.
According to traditional graduation rate calculations
2009 - 93.9%
2008 - 97.9%
2007 - 97.8%
Portage Area Junior Senior High School is located at 85 Mountain Avenue, Portage. In 2014, enrollment was reported as 392 pupils in 7th through 12th grades, with 57.6% of pupils eligible for a free lunch due to family poverty. Additionally, 14% of pupils received special education services, while 3.3% of pupils were identified as gifted. 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, Portage Area Junior Senior High School reported an enrollment of 378 pupils in grades 7th through 12th, with 177 pupils eligible for a federal free or reduced price lunch due to the family meeting the federal poverty level. In 2012, Portage Area Junior Senior High School employed 28.6 teachers yielding a student-teacher ratio of 13:1. According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of its teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind.2014 School Performance Profile
Portage Area Junior Senior High School achieved 75.3 out of 100. Reflects on grade level reading, mathematics and science achievement. In reading/literature - 82.8% of students were on grade level. In mathematics/Algebra 1, 74% showed on grade level skills. In science/Biology 1, just 66.6% demonstrated on grade level science understanding at the end of the course. In writing, 86.7% of 8th graders demonstrated on grade level writing skills. 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%.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 2,134 of 2,947 Pennsylvania public schools (72 percent of Pennsylvania public schools), achieved an academic score of 70 or higher. Fifty-three percent of schools statewide received lower SPP scores compared with last year's, while 46 percent improved. A handful were unchanged.2013 School Performance Profile
Portage Area Junior Senior High School achieved 87.5 out of 100. Reflects on grade level reading, mathematics and science achievement. In reading/literature - 83.9% of pupils were on grade level. In mathematics/Algebra 1, 85.5% showed on grade level skills. In science/Biology, 70% showed on grade level science understanding. In writing, 84% of 8th grade pupils demonstrated on grade level writing skills. 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.AYP History
In 2012, Portage Area Junior Senior High School achieved Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) status. In 2010 and 2011, Portage Area Junior Senior High School achieved AYP status. From 2003 through 2009, Portage Area Junior Senior High School achieved AYP history status each school year. Effective with Spring 2013, the Pennsylvania Department of Education discontinued administering the PSSA's to 11th graders.PSSA results
Pennsylvania System of School Assessments, commonly called PSSAs are No Child Left Behind Act related examinations which were administered from 2003 through 2012, in all Pennsylvania public high schools. The exams were administered in the Spring of each school year. The goal was for 100% of students to be on grade level or better in reading and mathematics, by the Spring of 2014. The tests focused on the state's Academic Standards for reading, writing, mathematics and science. The Science exam included content in science, technology, ecology and the environmental studies. The mathematics exam included: algebra I, algebra II, geometry and trigonometry. The standards were first published in 1998 and are mandated by the Pennsylvania State Board of Education. In 2013, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania changed its high school assessments to the Keystone Exams in Algebra 1, Reading/literature and Biology1. The exams are given at the end of the course, rather than all in the spring of the student's 11th grade year.
11th Grade Reading:2012 - 75% on grade level, (11% below basic). State - 67% of 11th graders are on grade level.
2011 - 65% (8% below basic). State - 69.1%
2010 - 76% (15% below basic). State - 66%
2009 - 72% (9% below basic). State - 65%
2008 - 66% (13% below basic). State - 65%
2007 - 68% (17% below basic). State - 65%
11th Grade Math:2012 - 52% on grade level (25% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 59% of 11th graders are on grade level.
2011 - 52% (28% below basic). State - 60.3%
2010 - 67% (16% below basic). State - 59%
2009 - 64% (20% below basic). State - 56%
2008 - 55% (27% below basic). State - 56%
2007 - 50% (30% below basic). State - 53%
11th Grade Science:2012 - 48% on grade level (5% below basic). State - 42% of 11th graders were on grade level.
2011 - 61% (4% below basic). State - 40%
2010 - 53% (8% below basic). State - 39%
2009 - 46% (16% below basic). State - 40%
2008 - 44% (12% below basic). State - 39%
2007 - students field tested. Results withheld from the public by PDE.
According to a Pennsylvania Department of Education study released in January 2009, 15% of the Portage Area High School graduates required remediation in mathematics and or reading before they were prepared to take college level courses in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education or community colleges. 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. 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.
Portage Area 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. Under the Pennsylvania Transfer and Articulation Agreement, many Pennsylvania colleges and universities accept these credits for students who transfer to their institutions. Under state rules, other students that reside in the district, who attend a private school, a charter school or are home schooled are eligible to participate in this program. The state offered a small grant to assist students in costs for tuition, fees and books. For the 2009-10 funding year, Portage Area High School received a state grant of $6,813 for the program. In 2010, Governor Edward Rendell eliminated the grants to students.
Portage Area High School does not offer Advanced Placement (AP) courses, which can allow students to save on college credits.
Among Pennsylvania's 500 public school districts, graduation requirements widely vary. The Portage Area School Board has determined that a pupil must earn 24 units of credit to graduate, including: a required class every year in English - 4 credits and social studies- 4 credits, Mathematics - 3 credits, science - 3 credits, health and Physical Education 1.33 credits, Independent Reading (.33 credit, per year, grades: 9-11), Driver Education - .33 credit and electives 7.5 credits. Students are also forced to complete 60 community service hours in order to graduate.
For nearly two decades, all Pennsylvania secondary school students were required to 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. 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.
By Pennsylvania State School Board regulations, beginning with the class of 2017, public school students must demonstrate successful completion of secondary level course work in Algebra I, Biology, and English Literature by passing the respective Keystone Exams for each course. The exam is given at the end of the course. Keystone Exams replace the PSSAs for 11th grade.
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. 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. 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. 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.
The Challenge Program offers $250.00 cash incentives to Portage Area High School students who excel in the categories of: Academic Improvement, Attendance, Community Service and Academic Excellence. The program partners with businesses to motivate students both in and out of the classroom by encouraging good habits in students that will last throughout their education and into their future careers. For the 2010-2011 school year, the top 10% of students in each of the categories will be eligible to win $250.00.
In 2014, 32 Portage Area School District students took the SAT exams. The District's Verbal Average Score was 470. The Math average score was 493. The Writing average score was 462. 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. In 2014, 1,672,395 students took the SATs in the United States.
In 2013, 33 Portage Area School District students took the SAT exams. The District's Verbal Average Score was 485. The Math average score was 523. The Writing average score was 487. 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.
In 2012, 31 Portage Area School District students took the SAT exams. The District's Verbal Average Score was 473. The Math average score was 512. The Writing average score was 480. 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, 48 Portage Area School District students took the SAT exams. The District's Verbal Average Score was 467. The Math average score was 502. The Writing average score was 469. Pennsylvania ranked 40th among states with SAT scores: Verbal - 493, Math - 501, Writing - 479. 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.
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.
Seventh grades have been tested in reading and mathematics since 2006. Eighth graders are tested in: reading, writing, mathematics and Science. Beginning in the Spring of 2013, eighth graders, who are enrolled in Algebra I take the Keystone Exam for Algebra I at the end of the course. The testing of 8th grade in reading and mathematics began in 1999, as a state initiative. Testing in science began in 2007. The goal is for 100% of students to be on grade level or better in reading and mathematics, by the Spring of 2014. The tests focus on the state's Academic Standards for reading, writing, mathematics and science. The standards were published in 1998 and are mandated by the Pennsylvania State Board of Education. In 2014, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania adopted the Pennsylvania Core Standards - Mathematics.
8th Grade Science:2012 - 71% on grade level (8 below basic). State - 59%
2011 - 73% (11% below basic). State - 58.3%
2010 - 55% (23% below basic). State - 57%
2009 - 63% (9% below basic). State - 55%
2008 - 55%, (28% below basic). State - 52%
2007 - tested, but results not made public.
Dropout Early Warning System
In 2013, Portage Area School District did not implement the state's dropout prevention Early Warning System and Interventions Catalog. The process identifies students at risk for droping out by examining the pupil’s: attendance, behavior and course grades. Interventions are implemented to assist at-risk pupils to remain in school. The program is funded by federal and private dollars.
Portage Area Elementary School is located at 84 Mountain Avenue, Portage. In 2014, the School's enrollment was 534 pupils in preschool through 6th, with 56.5% of pupils receiving a federal free or reduced price meals due to family poverty. Additionally, 12% of the pupils receive special education services, while none are identified as gifted. 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 and taxpayer funded preschool. The school is a federally designated Title I school.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2012, enrollment was 546 pupils in preschool through 6th, with 300 pupils receiving a free or reduced price lunch. The School employed 37 teachers yielding a student-teacher ratio of 14:1. According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 1 of its teachers was rated "Non‐Highly Qualified" under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The school provided full day kindergarten and taxpayer funded preschool.2014 School Performance Profile
Portage Area Elementary School achieved a score of 83.3 out of 100. The score reflects on grade level: reading, science, writing and mathematics achievement. In 2013-14, only 75.5% of the students were reading on grade level in grades 3rd through 6th. In 3rd grade, 72.7% of the pupils were reading on grade level. In math, 81% were on grade level (3rd-6th grades). In 4th grade science, 96% of the pupils demonstrated on grade level understanding. In writing, only 72% of 5th grade pupils demonstrated on grade level skills.2013 School Performance Profile
Portage Area Elementary School achieved a score of 79.7 out of 100. The score reflects on grade level: reading, science, writing and mathematics achievement. In 2012-13, only 73% of the students were reading on grade level in grades 3rd through 6th. In 3rd grade, 87.5% of the pupils were reading on grade level. In math, 78.6% were on grade level (3rd-6th grades). In 4th grade science, 86% of the pupils demonstrated on grade level understanding. In writing, only 56% of 5th grade pupils demonstrated on grade level skills.AYP status history
In 2011 and 2012, Portage Area Elementary School achieved Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) status. From 2003 through 2010, achieved Adequate Yearly Progress status each 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. The goal was for 100% of students to be on grade level or better in reading and mathematics, by the Spring of 2014. 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. 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 - 83%, (6% below basic). State - 82%
2011 - 93%, (4% below basic). State - 82.9%
2010 - 96%, (3% below basic). State - 81%
2009 - 92%, (0% below basic). State - 83%
2008 - 98%, (0% below basic). State - 81%
In December 2013, the Portage Area School District administration reported that 132 pupils or 14.2% of the district's pupils received Special Education services, with 55% of the identified students having a specific learning disability. In December 2009, the District administration reported that 151 pupils or 15.8% of the district's pupils received Special Education services, with 57.6% of the identified students having a specific learning disability. 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. 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. Portage Area School District has provided full day kindergarten since 2008. The District has seen a slight decrease in the percentage of special education students it serves, but has achieved no savings.
In order to comply with state and federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act rules and regulations, the 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. 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. 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.
Students who have an Individual Education Plan (IEP) may take the PSSA-M an alternative math exam rather than the PSSA. Some special education students may take the PASA (Pennsylvania Alternate System of Assessment), rather than the PSSA. Schools are permitted to provide accommodations to some students.
In 2010, the state of Pennsylvania provided $1,026,815,000 for Special Education services. This funding was in addition to the state's basic education per pupil funding, as well as, all other state and federal funding. The Special Education funding structure is through the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) funds and state appropriations. IDEA funds are appropriated to the state on an annual basis and distributed through intermediate units (IUs) to school districts, while state funds are distributed directly to the districts. Total funds that are received by school districts are calculated through a formula. The Pennsylvania Department of Education oversees four appropriations used to fund students with special needs: Special Education; Approved Private Schools; Pennsylvania Chartered Schools for the Deaf and Blind; and Early Intervention. The Pennsylvania Special Education funding system assumes that 16% of the district’s students receive special education services. It also assumes that each student’s needs accrue the same level of costs. 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. 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. In 2012, the Obama Administration's US Department of Education issued a directive requiring schools include students with disabilities in extracurricular activities, including sports.
The Portage Area School District received a $584,403 supplement for special education services in 2010. 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. For the 2014-2015 school year, Portage Area School District received an increase to $593,287 from the Commonwealth for special education funding.
The Portage Area District Administration reported that 20 or 2.11% of its students were gifted in 2009. The highest percentage of gifted students reported among all 500 school districts and 100 public charter schools in Pennsylvania was North Allegheny School District with 15.5% of its students identified as gifted. 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 are also considered for eligibility.
According to Pennsylvania Department of Education enrollment reports, there were 950 students enrolled in K-12 in 2009–10 school year at Portage Area School District. This was a significant decline from the 1006 pupil enrollment in 2003-04. There were 74 students in the Class of 2009. The district's class of 2010 had 65 students. Enrollment is projected to decline to 732 students by 2017. In 2008, Portage Area School District administrative costs were $818.93 per pupil ranking 173rd in the Commonwealth for administrative spending. The lowest administrative cost per pupil in Pennsylvania was $398 per pupil. A study of Pennsylvania public school spending, conducted by Standard and Poor's, examined the consolidation of small public school districts in Pennsylvania in 2007. The study found that consolidation of the administration with an adjacent school district would achieve substantial administrative cost savings which varied by district. The study examined a consolidation of the administration of Portage Area School District with neighboring Penn Cambria School District finding a savings of over $2.7 million in 2007.
According to a 2009 school district administration consolidation proposal by Governor Edward Rendell, the excessive administrative overhead dollars could be redirected to improve lagging academic achievement, to enrich the academic programs or to reduce property taxes. Consolidation of two central administrations into one would not require the closing of any schools. The Governor's proposal called for the savings to be redirected to improving lagging reading and science achievement, to enriching the academic programs or to reducing residents' property taxes. In March 2011, the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants Fiscal Responsibility Task Force released a report which found that consolidating school district administrations with one neighboring district would save the Commonwealth $1.2 billion without forcing the consolidation of any schools.
From 2000 through 2010, rural Pennsylvania public school district enrollment decreased by 8 percent. In 2010, there were 726,417 children in rural Pennsylvania, or 21 percent of the total rural population. From 2000 to 2010, the number of children in rural counties decreased 7 percent. The decline in the number of children impacted most rural counties with 42 of Pennsylvania’s 48 rural counties experiencing a decline. Cameron County, Elk County and Sullivan County experienced the greatest declines, with a decrease of more than 21 percent in all three counties. Cambria County's live birth rate was 1,132 births in 1990. Cambria County's live birth rate in 2000 was 1,048 births while in 2011 it had declined to 1,039 babies. Over the past 50 years (1960 to 2010), rural Pennsylvania saw a steady decline in both the number and proportion of residents under 18 years old. In 1960, 1.06 million rural residents, or 35 percent of the rural population, were children.
Pennsylvania’s birth rate has been declining for two decades. According to data from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, in 1990, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s birth rate was 171,053. In 2000, Pennsylvania’s birth rate was 145,874. Finally in 2011, the State’s birth rate declined further to 142,021. From 2000 to 2009, the number of babies born in rural counties declined 5 percent. Urban counties have also experienced a decline in the number of school aged children. From 2000-2010 urban Pennsylvania counties had a 3 percent decline in the number of residents under 18 years old. In 2010, there were 2.07 million residents, or 22 percent of the urban population, who were under age 18.
Pennsylvania had 2,361 public school districts in 1959. The state compelled mergers reducing the number to 505 by 1980. Mergers slowed through the 1980s after a 1981 court order desegregated and combined the Edgewood, General Braddock, Swissvale, Churchill and Turtle Creek districts into the Woodland Hills district. In 2010, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has one of the highest numbers of school districts in the nation. In Pennsylvania, 80% of the school districts serve student populations under 5,000, and 40% serve less than 2,000. This results in excessive school administration bureaucracy and not enough course diversity. In a survey of 88 superintendents of small districts, 42% stated that they thought consolidation would save money without closing any schools.
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.
In 2013, the average teacher salary in Portage Area School District was $51,471 a year The district employed 116 teachers and administrators with a top salary of $107,016. Portage 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.) After 40 years of service, a teacher can retire with 100% of the average salary of their final 3 years of employment. According to a study conducted at the American Enterprise Institute, in 2011, public school teachers’ total compensation is roughly 50 percent higher than they would likely receive in the private sector. The study found that the most generous benefits that teachers receive are not accounted for in many studies of compensation including: pension, retiree health benefits and job security.
In 2009, Portage Area School District reported employing 87 teachers and administrators with a median salary of $52,154 and a top salary of $97,124. The teacher’s work day is 7.5 hours with a 30-minute duty-free lunch, with 185 days in the contract year. Each teacher is scheduled at least one daily preparation period. Additionally, the teachers receive a defined benefit pension, paid health insurance, professional development reimbursement, 2 paid personal days, 12 paid sick days which accumulate, 3 paid bereavement days, 1 paid day per year to visit other schools, and other benefits.
Administration costs Portage Area School District administrative costs per pupil in 2008 was $818.93 per pupil. The lowest administrative cost per pupil in Pennsylvania was $398 per pupil. The Pennsylvania School Boards Association collects and maintains statistics on salaries of public school district employees in Pennsylvania. Superintendents and administrators receive a benefit package commensurate with that offered to the district's teachers' union.
Per pupil spending In 2008, the Portage Area School District administration reported that per pupil spending was $10,336 which ranked 453rd among Pennsylvania's then 501 public school districts. In 2010, the District’s per pupil spending had increased to $12,055. In 2013, the per pupil spending was reported as $11,944. In 2011, Pennsylvania’s per pupil spending was $13,467, ranking 6th in the United States. In 2007, the Pennsylvania per pupil total expenditures was reported as $12,759.
The U.S. Census Bureau reported that Pennsylvania spent $8,191 per pupil in school year 2000-01. In 2007, the Pennsylvania per pupil total expenditures was reported as $12,759. Among the fifty states, Pennsylvania’s total per pupil revenue (including all sources) ranked 11th at $15,023 per student, in 2008-09. Pennsylvania’s total revenue per pupil rose to $16,186 ranking 9th in the nation in 2011.
Reserves In 2008, the Portage Area School District reported a balance of $123,000, in its unreserved-designated fund. The unreserved-undesignated fund balance was reported as $1,957,948. In 2010, Portage Area School District Administration reported an increase to $2,466,817 in the unreserved-undesignated fund balance. The District also reported $250,000 in its unreserved-designated fund in 2010, with another $393,780 in its assigned fund balance. 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. In 2005, the total reserve funds held by Pennsylvania public school districts was $1.9 billion. By 2013, reserves held by Pennsylvania public school districts, as a whole, had increased to over $3.8 billion. By 2013, Portage Area School District had $1,710,124 in its committed fund balance and another $1,710,124 in its unassigned fund.
State Audit In January 2014, the Pennsylvania Auditor General conducted a performance audit of the District. The findings were reported to the School Board and the District’s administration.
Tuition Students who live in the District's attendance area may choose to attend one of Pennsylvania's 157 public charter schools. A student living in a neighboring public school district or a foreign exchange student may seek admission to Portage 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 - $7,706.51, High School - $9,377.97.
Portage Area School District is funded by a combination of: a local earned income tax 0.5%, per capita tax - $5 per annum, School Occupational Privilege - $10 per annum, a property tax, a real estate transfer tax 0.5%, coupled with substantial funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and a small amount, generally 10% of its budget from the federal government. Grants can provide an opportunity to supplement school funding without raising local taxes. Interest earnings on accounts also provide nontax income to the District. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, pension income and Social Security income are exempted from state personal income tax and local earned income tax, regardless of the level of the individual’s personal wealth. 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.
According to a report from Representative Todd Stephens office, Portage Area School District receives 73.4% of its annual revenue from the state. This exceeds the goal of the state providing 50% of district funding.
For the 2014-15 school year, Portage Area School District received $6,553,889 in State Basic Education funding. The District received $145,722 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. 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.
In the 2013-2014 school year, the Portage Area School District received a 1.1% increase or $6,553,026 in Pennsylvania Basic Education Funding. This is $73,384 more than its 2012-13 state BEF to the District. Additionally, Portage Area School District received $70,773 in Accountability Block Grant funding to focus on academic achievement and level funding for special education services. Among the public school districts in Cambria County, Westmont Hilltop School District received the highest percentage increase in BEF at 2.5%. 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. The highest percent of state spending per student is in the Chester-Upland district, where roughly 78 percent comes from state coffers. In Philadelphia, it is nearly 49 percent. 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.
For the 2012-13 school year, the Portage Area School District received $6,479,642. 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. Portage Area received an additional $70,773 in ABG funds. The state also provided a $544.4 million payment for School Employees’ Social Security and $856 million for School Employees’ Retirement fund called PSERS. 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 the 2011-12 school year, Portage Area School District received a $6,479,642 allocation, of state Basic Education Funding. Additionally, the Portage Area School District received $70,773 in Accountability Block Grant funding. The enacted Pennsylvania state Education budget included $5,354,629,000 for the 2011-2012 Basic Education Funding appropriation. This amount was a $233,290,000 increase (4.6%) over the enacted State appropriation for 2010-2011. 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. In 2010, the district reported that 512 students received free or reduced price lunches, due to the family meeting the federal poverty level. Some Pennsylvania public school districts experienced a reduction of total funding due to the termination of federal stimulus funding which ended in 2011.
In the 2010-11 budget year, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provided a 2% increase in Basic Education Funding for a total of $6,926,198 . Among the districts in Cambria County, the highest increase went to Ferndale Area School District which got a % increase. One 7.10 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. 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 Governor Edward Rendell and then Secretary of Education Gerald Zahorchak, as a part of the state budget proposal given each February. This was the second year of Governor Rendell’s policy to fund some public school districts at a far greater rate than others.
In the 2009-10 budget year, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provided a 4.8% increase in Basic Education Funding for a total of $$6,790,390. Among the districts in Cambria County, the highest increase went to Westmont Hilltop School District which got an 8.22%. Ninety (90) Pennsylvania public school districts received the base 2% increase. Muhlenberg School District in Berks County received a 22.31% increase in state basic education funding in 2009. The amount of increase each school district received was set by Governor Edward G. Rendell and the Secretary of Education Gerald Zahorchak, as a part of the state budget proposal.
The state Basic Education Funding to the District in 2008-09 was $6,479,642. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 488 district students received free or reduced- price lunches due to low family income in the 2007–2008 school year. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Pennsylvania spent $7,824 Per Pupil in the year 2000. This amount increased up to $12,085 by the year 2008.
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 skills training; All Day Kindergarten; lower class size in Kindergarten through 3rd grade; literacy and math coaching programs (provides 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 $192,095 in addition to all other state and federal funding. The District used the funding to provide full-day kindergarten. Since 2005, 100% of the kindergarteners in Portage Area School District attended full-day kindergarten. In 2011-2012 and 2012–13, the District received $70,773 in ABG funding.
Beginning with the 2014-15 education 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. Portage Area School District received $145,722 in Ready to Learn Grant dollars in addition to State Basic Education funding, Special Education funding, PreK Counts funding, reimbursement for Social Security payments for employees and other state grants which the district must apply to receive.
The Classroom for the Future state program provided districts with hundreds of thousands of extra state funding to buy laptop computers for each core curriculum high school class (English, Science, History, Math) and paid for teacher training to optimize the computers use. The program was funded from 2006 to 2009. The Portage Area School District did not apply to participate in 2006-07, in 2007-08 nor in 2008-09. Portage Area School District is one of 50 public school districts that never sought funding completely forgoing the state's technology initiative. Among the public school districts in Cambria County, the highest award was given to Greater Johnstown School District which received $463,166. The highest funding statewide was awarded to Philadelphia City School District in Philadelphia County - $9,409,073. The grant program was discontinued by Governor Edward Rendell as part of the 2009-10 state budget.
Portage Area Elementary School successfully applied to participate and received a Science It’s Elementary grant in 2008-09. For the 2008-09 school year, the program was offered in 143 schools reaching 66,973 students across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 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 was a hands on instruction approach for elementary science classes that develops problem-solving and critical thinking skills. 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. The district was required to develop a three-year implementation plan for the participating school. The school district administration was required to appoint a district liaison who was paid $3,000 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 for the program. The grant program was expanded to $14.5 million in the 2008-09 budget. The grant was discontinued in the state’s 2011 budget by Governor Edward G. Rendell.
The Portage Area School District did not participate in: Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's Environmental Education annual grants; Education Assistance Grants; PreK Counts grants to fund preschool; 2012 Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy grant; The America's Farmers Grow Rural Education SM program, 2013 Safe Schools and Resource Officer grants; 2012 and 2013 Pennsylvania Hybrid Learning Grants; Project 720 High School Reform grants (discontinued effective with 2011-12 budget); nor the federal 21st Century Learning grants.
The Portage Area School District received an extra $1,589,622 in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) - Federal Stimulus money to be used in specific programs like special education and meeting the academic needs of low-income students. The funding was limited to the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years. 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.
District officials did not apply for the federal Race to the Top grant which would have provided nearly one-half million dollars, in additional federal funding, to improve student academic achievement. 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. 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.
The Portage Area School Board elected to not participate in the Pennsylvania Department of Education Common Cents program. The program called for the state to audit the district, at no cost to local taxpayers, to identify ways the district could save tax dollars. After the review of the information, the district was not required to implement the recommended cost savings changes.
Property tax rates in 2014-15 were set by the school board at 48.5000 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. 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. 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. When a Pennsylvania public school district includes municipalities in two counties, each of which has different rates of property tax assessment, a state board equalizes the tax rates between the counties. 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.
The average yearly property tax paid by Cambria County residents amounts to about 2.4% of their yearly income. Cambria County ranked 1048th out of the 3143 United States counties for property taxes as a percentage of median income. 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. 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%). 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.
The Act 1 of 2006 Index regulates the rates at which each school district can raise property taxes in Pennsylvania. Districts are not permitted to raise property taxes above their annual Act 1 Index unless they either: allow Districts voters to approve the increase through a vote by referendum or they receive an exception from the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The base index for the school year is published by the PDE in the fall of each year. Each individual school district’s Act 1 Index can be adjusted higher, depending on a number of factors, such as local property values and the personal income of district residents. Originally, Act 1 of 2006 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.
In June 2011, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed legislation eliminating six of the exceptions to the Act 1 Index. 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. 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.
The School District Adjusted Index history for the Portage Area School District:
For the 2014-15 budget year, Portage Area School Board applied for an exception to exceed their Act 1 Index limit, due to rapidly escalating teacher pensions costs. In 2014-15, all Pennsylvania school districts were required to make a 21.4% of payroll payment to the teacher’s pension fund (PSERS). 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.
For the 2013-14 budget year, Portage Area School Board did not apply for exceptions to exceed their Act 1 Index limit. In 2013-14, all Pennsylvania school districts were required to make a 16.93% of payroll payment to the teacher’s 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.
For the 2012-13 budget year, Portage Area School Board did not apply for exceptions to exceed the Act 1 Index. In 2012-13, all Pennsylvania school districts were required to make a 12.36% of payroll payment to the teacher’s 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.
For the 2011-12 school year, the Portage Area School Board applied for two exception to exceed the Act 1 Index: increasing special education costs and rising teacher pension costs. In 2011-12, all Pennsylvania school districts were required to make an 8.65% of payroll payment to the teacher’s pension fund. Each year, the Portage 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.
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.
The Portage Area School Board also did not apply for any exceptions to exceed the Act 1 index for the school district's budget in 2010-11.
For the 2009-10 school budget, the Portage Area School Board did not apply for exceptions to exceed the Index. 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.
In 2014, Portage Area School District approved 1,975 homestead properties to receive $170 each. The decline in amount was related to more residents applying for tax relief and a decline in table games tax revenues. The amount received by the District must be divided equally among all approved residences.
In 2009, Portage Area School District approved 1,878 homestead properties to receive $179 in property tax relief. The relief was subtracted from the total annual school property tax bill. Property owners apply for the relief through the county Treasurer's office. Farmers can qualify for a farmstead exemption on building used for agricultural purposes. The farm must be at least 10 contiguous acres (40,000 m2) and must be the primary residence of the owner. Farmers can qualify for both the homestead exemption and the farmstead exemption. The amount of property tax relief each Pennsylvania public school district receives is announced by the PDE in May of each year. The amount of tax relief is dependent on the total tax revenue collected on the casino slots in the previous year. Thirty five percent of the slots tax revenues are used for property tax relief. In Cambria County, the highest tax relief went to Ferndale Area School District which was set at $214. The highest property tax relief provided, among Pennsylvania school districts, goes to the homesteads of Chester Upland School District in Delaware County which received $632 per approved homestead in 2010. Chester-Upland School District has consistently been the top recipient since the programs inception. The tax relief was started by Governor Edward G. Rendell with passage of the state gaming law in 2004. Rendell promised taxpayers substantial property tax relief from legalized gambling.
In Cambria County, 56% of eligible property owners applied for property tax relief in 2009. This was among the lowest participation rates in Pennsylvania.2010 - property tax relief for 1,946 approved residents received $172.
2011 - property tax relief for 1,956 approved residents received $171.
2012 - property tax relief for 1,957 approved residents received $171.
2013 - property tax relief for 1,957 approved residents received $171.
In Pennsylvania, the homestead exclusion reduces the assessed values of homestead properties, reducing the property tax on these homes. The homestead exclusion allows homeowners real property tax relief of up to one half of the median assessed value of homesteads in the taxing jurisdiction (county, school district, city, borough, or township).
Some Portage Area School District residents, including: low income residents aged 65 and older; widows and widowers aged 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older, can qualify for the state's Property Tax/Rent Rebate program. The income limit is $35,000 for homeowners. Residents must apply annually to receive up to $650. The Property tax/rent rebate program is funded by revenues from the Pennsylvania Lottery. In 2012, these property tax rebates were increased by an additional 50 percent for senior households in the state, so long as those households have incomes under $30,000 and pay more than 15% of their income in property taxes.
Portage Area School Board has established a district wellness policy. The policy deals with nutritious meals served at school, the control of access to some foods and beverages during school hours, age appropriate nutrition education for all students, and physical education for students K-12. The policy is in response to state mandates and federal legislation (P.L. 108 – 265). The law dictates that each school district participating in a program authorized by the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (42 U.S.C. 1751 et seq) or the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 (42 U.S.C. 1771 et seq) "shall establish a local school wellness policy by School Year 2006." Most districts identified the superintendent and school foodservice director as responsible for ensuring local wellness policy implementation.
The legislation placed the responsibility of developing a wellness policy at the local level so the individual needs of each district can be addressed. According to the requirements for the Local Wellness Policy, school districts must set goals for nutrition education, physical activity, campus food provision, and other school-based activities designed to promote student wellness. Additionally, districts were required to involve a broad group of individuals in policy development and to have a plan for measuring policy implementation. Districts were offered a choice of levels of implementation for limiting or prohibiting low nutrition foods on the school campus. In final implementation these regulations prohibit some foods and beverages on the school campus. The Pennsylvania Department of Education required the district to submit a copy of the policy for approval.
Portage Area School District offers both a free school breakfast and a free or reduced-price lunch to children in low income families. All students attending the school can eat breakfast and lunch. Children from families with incomes at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty level are provided a breakfast and lunch at no cost to the family. Children from families with incomes between 130 and 185 percent of the federal poverty level can be charged no more than 30 cents per breakfast. A foster child whose care and placement is the responsibility of the State or who is placed by a court with a caretaker household is eligible for both a free breakfast and a free lunch. Runaway, homeless and Migrant Youth are also automatically eligible for free meals. The meals are partially funded with federal dollars through the United States Department of Agriculture.
In 2013, the USDA issued new restrictions to foods in public schools. The rules apply to foods and beverages sold on all public school district campuses during the day. They limit vending machine snacks to a maximum of 200 calories per item. Additionally, all snack foods sold at school must meet competitive nutrient standards, meaning they must have fruits, vegetables, dairy or protein in them or contain at least 10 percent of the daily value of fiber, calcium, potassium, and Vitamin D. In order to comply with the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 all US public school districts are required to raise the price of their school lunches to $2.60 regardless of the actual cost of providing the lunch. The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 mandates that Districts raise their full pay lunch prices every year until the price of non-subsidized lunches equals the amount the federal government reimburses schools for free meals. That subsidy in 2013-2014 was $2.93.
In 2014, President Barack Obama ordered a prohibition of advertisements for unhealthy foods on public school campuses during the school day.
Portage Area School District provides health services as mandated by the Commonwealth and the federal government. Nurses are available in each building to conduct annual health screenings (data reported to the PDE and state Department of Health) and to dispense prescribed medications to students during the school day. Students can be excluded from school unless they comply with all the State Department of Health’s extensive immunization mandates. School nurses monitor each pupil for this compliance. Nurses also monitor each child's weight.
The Portage Area School District offers a wide variety of clubs, activities and an extensive, publicly funded sports program. Eligibility for participation is determined by school board policy and in compliance with standards set by the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA). The District is part of PIAA District 6 and a member of Western Pennsylvania Athletic Conference (WestPac) for athletic competitions. The District is noncompliant with state law, due to failing to post its Interscholastic Athletic Opportunities Disclosure Form on its website.
By Pennsylvania law, all K-12 students residing in Portage Area School District, including those who attend a private nonpublic school, a Pennsylvania public cyber charter school, charter school and those who are homeschooled, are all 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.
According to PA Child Abuse Recognition and Reporting Act 126 of 2014, all volunteer coaches and all those who assist in student activities, must have criminal background checks. Like all school district employees, they must also attend an anti child abuse training once every three years.
There are a plethora of athletics available at Portage Area Jr.-Sr. High School. Coaches receive compensation as outlined in the teachers' union contract. When athletic competition exceeds the regular season, additional compensation is paid. Article XVI-C of the Public School Code requires the disclosure of interscholastic athletic opportunities for all public secondary school entities in Pennsylvania. All school entities with grades 7-12 are required to annually collect data concerning team and financial information for all male and female athletes beginning with the 2012-13 school year and submit the information to the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Beginning with the 2013-14 school year, all non-school (booster club and alumni) contributions and purchases must also be reported to PDE.
According to Pennsylvania’s Safety in Youth Sports Act, all sports coaches, paid and volunteer, are required to annually complete the Concussion Management Certification Training and present the certification before coaching.
Opened in the summer of 2010, the Portage Area School District Fitness Center is located in the High School. The center is divided into three areas: cardio machines, pin machines, and free weights. The fitness center is used by physical education classes, athletic teams, and students before, during, and after school hours.Varsity
Junior High School Sports
According to PIAA directory July 2015
The district maintains its baseball and football on Caldwell Avenue, about a half mile east of the former elementary and high schools located in the town center.
The football stadium, the result of a Works Progress Administration project, was constructed in the 1930s. It is situated south of the Main Line of the Pennsylvania Railroad.