Charter schools were created to provide opportunities for teachers, parents,
students and community members to establish and maintain schools that operate
independently from the existing school district structure as a method to
accomplish the following: improve student learning; increase learning
opportunities for all students; encourage the use of different and innovative
teaching methods; create new professional opportunities for teachers; provide
parents and students with expanded choices in the types of educational
opportunities that are available within the public school system; and be
accountable for meeting measurable academic standards. Charter schools are
exempt from many educational mandates. Some of the mandates that charter schools
are not exempt from include health and safety, special education, civil rights,
student accountability, employee criminal history checks, open meetings, freedom
of information requirements, generally accepted accounting principles, and
certain provisions of the Pennsylvania School Code.
Both local school boards and PDE are independently granted authority to
review and act upon applications for the establishment of charter schools, to
oversee and regulate charter schools, and to revoke, renew or not renew
Schools that operate under a charter are divided into three general
categories—charter schools, regional charter schools, and cyber charter schools.
Both charter schools and regional charter schools (collectively referred to as
"charter schools") are independent public schools established and operated under
a charter from the local school board and in which students are enrolled or
attend. These schools are commonly referred to as "brick-and-mortar" charter
schools and focus on teacher-led discussion and teacher knowledge imparted to
students through face-to-face interaction at the schools' physical facilities
located within the boundaries of the school district that granted the charter. A
cyber charter school is an independent public school established and operated
under a charter from PDE and in which the school uses technology in order to
provide a significant portion of curriculum and to deliver a significant portion
of instruction to its students through the internet or other electronic means
without a school-established requirement that students be present at a
supervised physical facility designated by the school, except on a very limited
basis, such as for standardized test.
Charter schools and cyber
charter schools must be organized as public, nonprofit corporations.
The following resources may be useful to learn more about charter schools in Pennsylvania.