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Zach Connell on list of low-achieving schools

| Friday, Feb. 1, 2013, 6:18 p.m.

HARRISBURG — Zachariah Connell Elementary School in the Connellsville Area School District is one of eight schools in Fayette County to be included on the Department of Education's list of low-achieving schools.

Students, who live within the schools' boundaries, may be eligible to apply for a scholarship through the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit program to attend a participating public school or a nonpublic school.

Other Fayette County schools on the list include Albert Gallatin Area High School, Albert Gallatin North Middle School, Albert Gallatin South Middle School, Brownsville Area High School, Brownsville Area Middle School, LaFayette Elementary and LaFayette Middle School, both in the Uniontown Area School District.

Last year, Gov. Tom Corbett signed into law the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit program to provide low- and moderate-income students in low-achieving schools the opportunity to obtain a scholarship to attend a participating public or nonpublic school.

The list of schools contains the lowest-achieving 15 percent of elementary schools and the lowest-achieving 15 percent of secondary schools, based on combined math and reading scores on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment from the 2011-12 school year.

Career and technology centers as well as charter schools are not included on the list.

For the 2013-14 school year, students who live within the attendance boundaries schools on the list may be eligible for a scholarship if their household's annual income is no greater than $75,000, plus $12,000 for each dependent member of the household.

The maximum scholarship award available to non-special education students is $8,500 and the maximum for a special education student is $15,000.

Pennsylvania businesses that donate to opportunity scholarship organizations are eligible for a tax credit through the program. The Department of Community and Economic Development administers the tax credit program and must approve opportunity scholarship organizations based on their ability to enhance the educational opportunities for students in low-achieving schools.

The Department of Education is required by law to notify school districts that have schools identified as low-achieving no later than Feb. 1 of each year.

Within 15 days of notification by the department, school districts are required to notify parents and post on their website a description of the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit program as well as instructions on how families may apply.

Last year, Connellsville had five schools included on the list. Removed from the list this year were Dunbar Township Elementary, Connellsville Junior High West, Springfield Township Elementary School and Connellsville Township Elementary School.

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