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Summary of Charter School Legislation

SENATE BILL NO. 123 PASSED JUNE 12, 1997

-- This bill allows for the establishment of charter schools in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

-- A charter school is an independent public school established and operated under a charter from the local board of school directors. Charter schools must be established as public nonprofit, nonsectarian entities by teachers, parents, institutions of higher education or museums.

-- Existing public schools may be converted to charter schools by having approval of more than 50% of the parents of the children in the school and more than 50% of the teaching staff in the school.

-- The bill outlines the application and appeal process. The bill also defines the requirements for the establishment of regional charter schools. A charter may be granted for no more than 5 years by a school board. A charter application that is denied can be appealed with a petition signed by 1000 residents or 2% of the residents who are 18 or older of the district or districts granting the charter, whichever is less. The appeal process cannot be used until the 1999-2000 school year. The Department shall develop a form to be used for the petition. Decisions of the appeal board shall be subject to appellate review by the Commonwealth Court.

-- A charter school shall enroll students who chose to apply and are residents of the school district or participating districts. Nonresident students may also be enrolled with first preference given to resident students. Capacity issues will be settled by the use of a lottery. Discrimination is prohibited in admission decisions; however, the charter school may limit admission to a particular grade level or area of concentration and my set reasonable criteria to evaluate prospective students, consistent with the charter.

-- At least 75% of the professional staff of a charter school must hold appropriate Pennsylvania certification. The charter must list the general qualifications for non-certificated staff and additional criteria are established. The staff may bargain collectively, but not as part of the school district's bargaining unit. Protections are built into the bill to allow teachers to transfer to a charter school without penalty to employee rights: seniority, right of return, retirement, health benefits and tenure.

-- Charter schools will receive funds for operation from both the state and local level. Funding is provided by removing allocations that are not part of the operating costs of a charter school from the total expenditures per average daily membership of the school district of residence. School districts are provided temporary funding for the transitional costs of a district's students enrolling in a charter school and are provided payments due to the transfer of private school students to a public charter school.

-- Transportation is provided for students in charter schools in the same manner as transportation is provided to other schools in the districts. The same provisions applying to the transportation of non-public students apply to non-resident students who attend charter schools.

-- The bill provides a listing of school code regulations and statutes that directly apply to charter schools. Charter schools must comply with all other relevant regulations and statues, not in the school code, that apply to all public schools.

-- Employees of a charter school are considered public employees, and the board of trustees is considered a public employer for the purpose of the application of liability.

-- The bill established requirements for on-going access to records and facilities of the charter school and for an evaluation of charter schools by an independent consultant after five years.


For additional information, please contact:

Charter Schools Office |
Pennsylvania Department of Education
333 Market Street, 10th Floor | Harrisburg, PA 17126-0333
Phone: 717.787.9744 | Fax: 717.787.7222
charterschools@pa.gov | www.education.state.pa.us