Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Charter School?

Charter schools are public schools created by agreement (charter) with a local school district. They are non-profit and students attend without paying tuition. Charter schools are created and operated by parents, teachers, community members, business people, and sometimes colleges or universities. Charter schools are schools of "choice" and are an alternative to traditional public schools. Charter schools are exempt from some -- but not all -- of the laws and regulations that apply to other public schools. Charter schools must provide at least 180 days of instruction and are required to take part in Pennsylvania's academic testing system. Charter schools must comply with laws protecting civil rights, student health and safety, laws relating to suspending or expelling students and federal special education laws.

Who Can Enroll in a Charter School?

Any child who lives in Pennsylvania can apply for admission to a charter school. Charter Schools are permitted to provide preference to students who fall in certain categories. This is generally included in the school's admissions policy. If there is not enough space for all the students who apply to a charter school, qualified students must be selected randomly (by lottery). Charter schools may give preference to students with siblings attending the school and with parents involved in the development of the charter school. Non-resident students can be admitted if there is enough space.

Can a Charter School Exclude Students?

Charter schools cannot restrict admission based on any criteria that is illegal, such as academic or athletic ability, a disability, etc. A charter school cannot deny enrollment or discriminate in its admission policies or practices based on a student's disability or the student's need for additional aids or services. A charter school must admit students regardless of the nature and severity of their disability if they meet the other requirements for enrollment. However, a charter school is allowed to limit enrollment to a grade level or area of study (the arts, mathematics, or science). Charter schools may create fair standards to judge prospective students.

Can a Charter School Charge Tuition?

No. Charter schools must be free to parents and to students. Charter schools cannot charge registration fees or impose other costs that would prohibit the enrollment of some students.

Who Can Teach at a Pennsylvania Charter School?

In Pennsylvania, only seventy-five percent (75%) of the teachers in charter schools need to be certified teachers.

Do Charter Schools Participate in Statewide Assessments?

Yes. Charter schools must participate in the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) in the same manner in which the school district in which the charter school is located is scheduled to participate.

Do Charter Schools Have to Operate on the Same Calendar as Traditional Public Schools?

No. Charter schools must provide a minimum of 180 days of instruction per year, but are free to provide a longer or different school calendar.

Who is Responsible for Transporting Students to and from a Charter School?

Districts must provide free transportation to students who live in the district and attend a charter school located within the district or a charter school that is located within ten (10) miles of the district's borders. A school district must also transport students to a charter school while the school is in session, whether or not its own schools are in session.

How are Charter Schools Monitored?

The Board of Education of the local school district in which the charter school operates has the authority to revoke the charter or to refuse to renew it. Charter schools must follow the charter agreement they enter into with the local school board. They must also submit an annual report to the district. Every five years, the local school board must determine whether each charter school is meeting the goals of its charter. The Pennsylvania Department of Education also monitors charter schools directly, to ensure that charter schools comply with relevant state and federal laws – including federal disability and civil rights laws.

Can a Parent Withdraw a Student from a Charter School at Any Time?

Yes. Charter schools are schools of choice. A parent may withdraw a child at any time and re-enroll the child in the local school district or elsewhere.

Can Students Enrolled in a Charter School Participate in Extra-Curricular Activities in their Local school district?

Yes, but only if the charter school does not offer the same opportunity or activity. For example, a student enrolled in a charter school can play on the high school's soccer team only if the charter school does not have its own soccer team.