The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has prompted expanded support of charter schools and school choice by Pennsylvania families and parents across the nation. Policymakers such as Toomey are taking note of the need to implement legislation that will empower parents to make the best choices with laws that foster expanded charter school options and equitable funding that supports quality charter schools such as Bear Creek Community Charter School.  

On Wednesday, September 8, U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) visited Bear Creek Community Charter School in Bear Creek Township, PA to support school choice.  During the visit, Sen. Toomey spoke with Jim Smith (CEO of Bear Creek Community Charter School) and Lenny McAllister (CEO of Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools (PCPCS)) before meeting with school leadership and students.  

As Luzerne County’s only public charter school, Toomey has said that Bear Creek Community Charter School provides a valuable option for area students.  During the visit, Toomey said “I’m enormously impressed by this school”. 

Smith’s team and he were commended by the senator for the wonderful work that the school has been doing for their schoolchildren in the community since it opened on September 29, 2004 as the first and only public charter school in Luzerne County. It was this work that led to Bear Creek being named as a subgrantee for the PACSP Program headed by PCPCS.

It has been almost a year since the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools was awarded a historic five-year award from the U.S. Department of Education through the Expanding Opportunities Through Quality Charter School Programs (CSP) Grants to State Entities. During the first year of the program, Bear Creek was selected as a subgrantee along with subgrantees City Charter High School in Pittsburgh and Midland Innovation + Technology Charter School in Beaver County.  Each school was awarded funds designed to expand public charter school options for their students and foster the expansion of brick-and-mortar charter schools throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Nationally, sentiment for school choice and charter schools has been growing since the closing of schools in March 2020. During his school visit, Toomey said that “In the big picture we need to take more steps to make sure parents have more choice… We need to empower parents to choose the school their child attends.”  

In Pennsylvania, charter school enrollment has grown over 85% since the 2009-2010 school year due to the ability of charter schools to meet the needs that parents and students have in K-12 education. The public charter school successes, like Bear Creek, are endless, and therefore they should be treated fairly with policies that empower parents and educators to facilitate success for charter school students for life.

As reported by the Times Leader Media Group, McAllister joined Toomey in the visit, with both noting how the state’s current administration seems hostile to charter schools despite public sentiment supporting school choice by a widening majority. 

With the upcoming Pennsylvania General Assembly session fast approaching in under two weeks, Pennsylvanians continue to clamour for lawmakers to advance policies that will provide expanded options as the pandemic continues to impact K-12 education across the Commonwealth. With growing wait lists (estimated around 25,000) of students unable to find the best academic and developmental fits for their scholastic needs, parents are pushing their representatives to craft transformative reforms to support their children through this once-in-a-lifetime crisis.  

At the federal level, the CSP program is a key component in ensuring that these families can be prepared for success in life.  Discussion by statewide charter school leaders such as PCPCS as well as their colleagues at the federal level are urging leaders not to cut any funding to the CSP program during this critical junction in public education during the ongoing pandemic. 


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 165,000 students, and demand for these public schools continues to grow. For more information on PCPCS or PA public charter schools, visit  For questions, reach out to our team at