Charter-Cyber Charter Schools

What are 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 a public, nonprofit corporation. A charter may not be granted to a for-profit entity.

Source: PDE -Charter Schools

Meaningful Charter School Reform

Charter schools are public schools, but by their very nature they have been designed through state law and regulation to be both equal and unequal to traditional public school districts. Created in Pennsylvania in 1997, the state has followed a national trend toward privatizing public education in the name of providing innovations in education and public school choice. The law exempts charters from many of the state's statutory and regulatory requirements, creating an uneven playing field that has not led to a transparent, accountable or high-performing system of education.

The state must enact comprehensive and meaningful reforms to the Charter School Law to level the playing field between charters and traditional public schools. These reforms should address areas of charter school operations, funding and accountability. Charter schools and educational management organizations (EMOs) should be subject to the same laws and regulations that all public schools must follow, including the same financial, academic and ethical accountability standards as school districts.

In addition, the special education funding formula established under Act 126 of 2014 should apply equally to charter schools just as it does to school districts. The current flawed special education tuition calculation requires school districts to pay charter schools regardless of the costs of services provided and results in the overpayment of district funds to charter schools for special education students. As a result, school districts overpay charter schools for special education students. The special education funding formula creates three tiers of special education tuition rates based on actual special education enrollment and weighted costs of providing a special education program to each eligible student according to several factors. Not including charter schools in this formula creates another double standard by which a charter school and a traditional public school would receive different amounts of funding to educate the same child. This system must apply equally to charter schools just as it applies to school districts.

Source: PSBA: Enact Meaningful Reform

Where can I find more information about Charter Schools?

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

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Education

How are Charter Schools Funded?

There is no tuition charge for a resident or nonresident student attending a charter school. Funding for charter schools is addressed in Section 1725-A (PDF) of the Pennsylvania Public School Code. Charter schools should receive for each student enrolled an amount paid by the district of residence of each student. This amount is based upon a statutory funding formula. There is a funding formula for non-special education students and for special education students.

Pursuant to section 1725-A(a)(5), a charter school may ask the Secretary of Education to redirect a school district's subsidy when the school district fails to pay the charter school for educating resident students. The request must be in writing and include a copy of the invoice prepared in the format required by PDE.

Auditor General DePasquale Says Audits of PA Cyber Charter School, Two Other Schools Reaffirm Need to Overhaul Charter School Law

For more information click here to see September 22, 2016 report: Auditor General Report on Charter Schools

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