The Pennsylvania Department of Education's School Services Office, Private Academic Schools and Nonpublic, Nonlicensed (Operated by a Bona Fide Church or Religious Body) School services
section, your central source for information about private academic and nonpublic schools in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Private and nonpublic schools in Pennsylvania provide the parents of school-age children diverse alternatives to public schools. Private schools are available at all grade levels
including nursery/kindergarten, elementary and secondary schools of virtually every educational philosophy and religious denomination. There are also specialty schools for special education
and tutoring, as well as private academies and boarding schools. Parents can choose from among more than approximately 3,000 nonpublic and private schools in Pennsylvania.
Explanation of Schools and Services
The responsibility of the Nonpublic and Private School Section is to license private academic schools and register nonpublic nonlicensed schools in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
There are three types of private schools in Pennsylvania:
- LICENSED PRIVATE ACADEMIC SCHOOLS are licensed and regulated by the State Board of Private Academic Schools, whose rules, regulations, and standards are concerned with quality education, teacher certification, attendance and courses of study, which closely parallel public school requirements. These schools are primarily nonsectarian.
- NONPUBLIC NONLICENSED SCHOOLS are schools sponsored by bona fide religious institutions. Registration is required of these schools by the Pennsylvania School Code; however, they can choose to be licensed.
- ACCREDITED SCHOOLS are schools that are accredited by accrediting associations approved by the State Board of Education. The purpose of these organizations is to provide schools a measured, recognized means of improving their academic and operational performance. Schools that desire to become accredited must meet prescribed quality standards established by the accrediting organization. The accredited schools are able to participate in the student services provided to the Licensed and Nonpublic Nonlicensed schools.
NOTE: Private school's in Pennsylvania are not required to be Accredited, however, a school can obtain accreditation through an approved accrediting association.
Through Act 89, students attending nonprofit nonpublic schools can access a program of auxiliary services that are similar to those provided to public school students in the school district in which the nonpublic school is located. In addition, Act 195, Act 90 and Act 35 provide textbooks, instructional materials and equipment, loaned free of charge, to students who attend nonpublic schools in grades kindergarten through twelve.
- Does the Commonwealth of PA provide tuition grants to parents for private academic schools?
Currently, Pennsylvania does not provide grants. The Department of Community and Economic Development administers
the Educational Improvement Tax Credit Initiative
and the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program which provide scholarships for private school students.
Also, you may contact the school you will be enrolling your child in to see if they provide funding/grants, or if they know of private organizations that provide funding.
- Do private academic schools have to abide by the 180-day attendance requirement?
Private schools are required to be in session for a minimum of 180 days of instruction or a minimum of 450 kindergarten hours, 900 elementary hours, or 990 secondary hours of
instruction. Licensed private academic schools must request a formal exception to the 180-day requirement by submitting the 180-Day Exception Form if the school wishes to use the
hours in lieu of the days.
- Do nonpublic and private academic schools have the right to withhold student records?
Nonpublic and Private academic schools must release all student health records; however, a school can choose to withhold student academic records. You can view the Basic Education Circular that pertains to Student Records Being Retained by a Private School at the following link: BEC.
- Who is responsible for providing Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) to students publicly placed in a licensed private academic school?
You can find information regarding FAPE by downloading the
Advisory Statement (PDF).