What Are Charter Schools?
Charter Schools are independently operated public schools that are funded with federal, state and local tax dollars. These schools are established to provide families with more educational alternatives for their children. Charters are non-profit, nonsectarian, organizations that are approved by the local Board of Education (the “authorizer”) or the State Appeal Board. Each charter has its own Board of Trustees and administrative staff and operates as a separate, independent local educational agency (LEA). The Pennsylvania Charter School Law – Act 22 of 1997 – set up charters to operate free of many of the local and state requirements that apply to traditional public schools.
Charter schools are accountable to their authorizer, however, for making academic progress, for fulfilling the terms of both its original charter and of its Charter Agreement and for complying with a number of applicable federal statutes – such as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) , Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Internal Revenue Code for (501)(c)(3) organizations; and state statutes – such as the Public Officials and Employee Ethics Act, the Right To Know Act, the Sunshine Act, the Public School Code of 1949 and the Pennsylvania Non Profit Corporation Act.
Each charter school should have a Parent/Community Handbook which explains the school’s rules, how it complies with these statutes, a listing of dates and times for Board of Trustees’ meetings, the procedure to be followed for parental inquiries and complaints and many other details about the school’s operations.