PCPCS News

U.S. Department of Education Awards $30M Grant to Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools

HARRISBURG (October 1, 2020) – The Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools (PCPCS) is pleased to announce that the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) has awarded it an Expanding Opportunities Through Quality Charter School Programs Grant (commonly referred to as a CSP Grant). This grant award will total $30 million over a grant period of five years (2021-25) and will support the development, expansion and replication of high-quality public brick-and-mortar charter schools in Pennsylvania.  

Thanks to recent changes to the Every Student Succeeds Act, PCPCS was able to apply for a CSP Grant under the category of “State Entity” and will partner with Charter Choices to create, administer and monitor a competitive subgrant program. This is not the first time that the USDE has awarded CSP funds to expand public charter schools in Pennsylvania. The CSP Grant was established more than 10 years ago, and individual public charter schools in the commonwealth have received funding to expand the high-quality educational opportunities for students. 

“Pennsylvania’s public charter schools currently serve more than 143,000 students, but demand for these high-quality schools continues to grow each year,” said Bob Lysek, PCPCS board president and CEO of Executive Education Academy Charter School in Allentown. “In Philadelphia alone there are more than 40,000 children on charter school waitlists, and the CSP Grant awarded to PCPCS will allow for a significant increase in the number of students served by public charter schools.”

The support and demand among families, community leaders and elected officials for Pennsylvania’s public charter schools have been consistent since their establishment in 1997. PCPCS received 22 letters of support for its CSP Grant application from charter school, school district and business leaders, educational advocates, and state and federal lawmakers.

“The support for Pennsylvania receiving a CSP Grant and funding the expansion of high-quality charter schools was overwhelming, including bipartisan support from state lawmakers,” Lysek said. “We specifically want to thank members of the Pennsylvania delegation in Washington, D.C., who advocated on our behalf: Sen. Pat Toomey, Rep. Glenn Thompson, Rep. Fred Keller and Rep. Dan Meuser.”   

As the recipient of a CSP Grant, PCPCS will act as a pass-through entity for competitive funds, which will be awarded to high-quality subgrantees who already have approval from their local authorizers to create, expand or replicate a brick-and-mortar charter school in Pennsylvania’s most underserved areas. 

“Each structural and design element of the subgrant process — including the contents of the application, the scoring criteria, the composition of the peer review team, the manner in which subgrant award amounts will be determined, and the channels through which subgrant availability will be publicized — has been explicitly tailored to elicit proposals from high-quality charter schools that have improved, and will continue to improve, educational results for children,” said Michael Whisman, founder and executive officer of Charter Choices.

Subgrantees can use their funds for the following:

  • Planning and program design that does not exceed 18 months
  • One-time costs for the purpose of opening, replicating or expanding a public brick-and-mortar charter school
  • Costs of preparing teachers, school leaders and specialized instructional support personnel
  • Supplies, training, equipment and educational materials
  • Renovations for a new school building to comply with applicable statutes and regulations (construction is excluded)
  • Community engagement activities 

“The application process to the U.S. Department of Education was just the first step and we have a lot of work ahead of us, but we are thankful for the opportunity to ensure more Pennsylvania students have access to public schools that meet their unique needs,” said Brandie Karpew, co-director of PA’s CSP Grant program and PCPCS director of operations and development. “Every student — regardless of ZIP code, family income or educational needs — deserves an opportunity to attend a school that meets their unique needs and prepares them for future success.” 

Subgrant application materials will be publicly available in the coming weeks, and the first round of subgrant awards will be made in 2021.  

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About PCPCS: The Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools (PCPCS) is the state’s largest and most active organization advocating for both brick-and-mortar and cyber charter schools. Pennsylvania’s 180 charter schools educate more than 140,000 students and demand for these public schools continues to grow with more than 40,000 students on charter school waitlists. For more information on PCPCS or charters schools, visit www.pacharters.org.