What’s a Charter School?

Charter schools are public, nonsectarian schools that operate under an agreement (the “Charter”) between the charter school and the sponsoring local school board (or state board in the case of “Cyber” charter schools).

Charter schools have the flexibility, authority, and responsibility to innovate in exchange for greater accountability for results–student learning. The “charter” establishing each school is a legal agreement detailing the school’s mission, programs, methods of assessment, finances, and measures of success.

While free from many state regulations, students in charter schools take state tests required of other public schools students, to help assess the students’ progress.

Charter schools may not discriminate in admission and all students are selected by lottery.



What’s the difference between charter schools and other public schools?

Charter schools are public schools of choice. Students (along with their parents) choose to attend a charter school in place of their district-assigned school.

Charter schools generally offer teachers and students more authority to make decisions than most traditional public schools. Instead of being accountable for compliance with regulations, they are accountable for academic results and for upholding their charter.

Who authorizes charter schools?

In Pennsylvania, individuals or groups seeking to establish a public charter school must apply to the local school board of the district in which the school will be located. If a school district rejects a charter school application, the applicant can then appeal to the state’s Charter Appeals Board (CAB).

Cyber charter applicants apply to the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Who can start a charter school?

Parents, community leaders, businesses, teachers, school districts, and municipalities can submit a charter school proposal.

For additional information on how to start a charter school, please visit the

How To Open a New School page.

Who attends charter schools? Whom do they serve?

Students in charter schools have similar demographic characteristics to students in all public schools. Many charter schools serve significantly higher percentages of minority or economically disadvantaged students than the traditional public schools.

Admission is based upon a lottery, as many charter schools have waiting lists.

How are charter schools funded?

As public schools, charters are funded in the same way that district-run public schools are funded, namely through tax dollars. Charter schools are not allowed to charge tuition.

How can I find a charter school in my area?

To locate public charter schools in your area, go to the Find a PA Charter School page.

How can I start a charter school in my area?

For additional information on how to start a charter school, please visit the

How To Open a New School page.

630 Freedom Business Ctr. Drive, 3rd Floor Suite, King of Prussia, PA 19406
Phone: 484-356-0191  /  Fax: 484-356-0190  /  Email: info@PaCharters.org