The Pennsylvania Charter School Law was enacted in 1997 to allow local boards of education to establish new charter schools.
In many ways, charter schools are like district-operated schools:
- They are public, tuition-free schools.
- They offer instruction in all core courses, aligned to state requirements.
- They must enroll and support all students, including those with special needs and limited English proficiency.
But charter schools do not have to follow certain district policies, including:
- Design of their academic programs
- Length of school day and school year (however must meet state requirements)
- Selection of textbooks, curriculum, and other materials
- Hiring of teachers and staff
- Discipline expectations for students
- Extracurricular programs
Just like district-operated schools, charter schools must be accessible to all students within their district, comply with applicable federal and state statutes, and most importantly produce academic results for their students. Each charter school must also fulfill the terms of its original charter application and its charter agreement.
In 2010, the School District of Philadelphia announced the Renaissance Initiative, a plan to transform educational options for students throughout Philadelphia. Today, the Renaissance Initiative is part of the System of Great Schools, a plan to ensure that all students have a great school close to where they live. Through the initiative, there are several options to transform neighborhood schools with long-term academic and climate challenges, including turnaround by the School District or charter school operators. Renaissance Charter Schools are those that are transformed under the leadership of an experienced charter school operator while operating under the Charter School Law.
The Renaissance Initiative began in 2010 with seven schools, and has grown to include 21 schools in the 2017–18 school year. Click here for the current list of Renaissance Charter Schools.