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Understanding Charter Schools

access_time Posted on: January 23rd, 2023

In 1997 the Pennsylvania legislature passed the Pennsylvania Charter School Law, and charter schools were established. Forty-six states have a charter school law, and charter schools have become a major factor in public education. This article will answer some basic questions about charters.

How many students attend charter schools?

According to the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools, as of the spring of 2022, there are roughly 7,700 schools and campuses serving more than 3.4 million students across the U.S. Pennsylvania has almost 200 charter schools that serve about 1 75,000 students.

What are the different forms charter schools take?

There are two basic structures. First, a charter school can be located in a regular school building where students attend every day. To an outside observer, the school would look like any other public school. Those charters are commonly known as “brick and mortar charters.” The second type of charter is a cyber-charter in which students attend school virtually. Although cyber education predated the Covid pandemic, many parents first learned about virtual education during the pandemic as traditional districts adopted virtual programming. Many districts borrowed teaching methods and curricula from charter school organizers since those schools have been educating students virtually for many years.

How are charters created?

Charter schools are started by a group of local residents who want to set up a different type of education in their area. That organization must file a lengthy and specific application with the school district where the charter will be located. The application details the curriculum, financing, special education programming, staffing, and location of the charter school. The district is then required to analyze the application. If the charter application meets the requirements of the Charter School law, the district is required to approve the application.

Are charter schools “public schools”?

Yes, charter schools are public schools. Everyone is entitled to attend a charter school and there is no tuition. Charter schools are prohibited from discriminating against applicants based on their achievement, disabilities, race, religion or national origin.

If charters are free to students, how are they funded?

Charter schools get their funding from the district where the students reside. Districts are required to pay the charter schools most (but not all) of the money they receive for their students from local taxes and from state revenue. In Pennsylvania, the average district received about $1 7,500/year in revenue per student. The District is required to provide about $1 4,800 of those funds to the charter school.


Please do not hesitate to reach out to a CGA Education Law attorney with your questions about charter schools or any other area of education law.

Dan Fennick

Daniel M. Fennick

Of Counsel | Attorney

Daniel Fennick joined CGA Law Firm in an “of counsel” position in 2020. Before he came to the firm, Dan was in private practice for nearly 40 years as a partner at Anderson, Converse and Fennick, a firm he founded in 1981. Dan specialized in education law, particularly special education for children with disabilities, and charter schools. His practice also included family law, estate planning, wills and trusts, contract drafting and interpretation, litigation and mediation.

Read Daniel’s Bio Page in full HERE.