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Charter Schools

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 charters.

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.

More Information

The following resources may be useful to learn more about charter schools in Pennsylvania.