Pennsylvania Statutes Title 24 P.S. Education § 17-1717-A. Establishment of charter school

(a) A charter school may be established by an individual;  one or more teachers who will teach at the proposed charter school;  parents or guardians of students who will attend the charter school;  any nonsectarian college, university or museum located in this Commonwealth;  any nonsectarian corporation not-for-profit, as defined in 15 Pa.C.S. (relating to corporations and unincorporated associations);  any corporation, association or partnership;  or any combination thereof.  A charter school may be established by creating a new school or by converting an existing public school or a portion of an existing public school.  No charter school shall be established or funded by and no charter shall be granted to any sectarian school, institution or other entity.  No funds allocated or disbursed under this article shall be used to directly support instruction pursuant to section 1327.1.  1

(b)(1) The conversion of an existing public school or portion of an existing public school to a charter school may be initiated by any individual or entity authorized to establish a charter school under subsection (a).

(2) In order to convert an existing public school to a charter school, the applicants must show that:

(i) More than fifty per centum of the teaching staff in the public school have signed a petition in support of the public school becoming a charter school;  and

(ii) More than fifty per centum of the parents or guardians of pupils attending that public school have signed a petition in support of the school becoming a charter school.

(3) In no event shall the board of school directors serve as the board of trustees of an existing school which is converted to a charter school pursuant to this subsection.

(c) An application to establish a charter school shall be submitted to the local board of school directors of the district where the charter school will be located by November 15 of the school year preceding the school year in which the charter school will be established except that for a charter school beginning in the 1997-1998 school year, an application must be received by July 15, 1997.  In the 1997-1998 school year only, applications shall be limited to recipients of fiscal year 1996-1997 Department of Education charter school planning grants.

(d) Within forty-five (45) days of receipt of an application, the local board of school directors in which the proposed charter school is to be located shall hold at least one public hearing on the provisions of the charter application, under the act of July 3, 1986 (P.L. 388, No. 84),  2 known as the “Sunshine Act.”  At least forty-five (45) days must transpire between the first public hearing and the final decision of the board on the charter application except that for a charter school beginning in the 1997-1998 school year, only thirty (30) days must transpire between the first public hearing and the final decision of the board.

(e)(1) Not later than seventy-five (75) days after the first public hearing on the application, the local board of school directors shall grant or deny the application.  For a charter school beginning in the 1997-1998 school year, the local board of school directors shall grant or deny the application no later than sixty (60) days after the first public hearing.

(2) A charter school application submitted under this article shall be evaluated by the local board of school directors based on criteria, including, but not limited to, the following:

(i) The demonstrated, sustainable support for the charter school plan by teachers, parents, other community members and students, including comments received at the public hearing held under subsection (d).

(ii) The capability of the charter school applicant, in terms of support and planning, to provide comprehensive learning experiences to students pursuant to the adopted charter.

(iii) The extent to which the application considers the information requested in section 1719-A   3 and conforms to the legislative intent outlined in section 1702-A.  4

(iv) The extent to which the charter school may serve as a model for other public schools.

(3) The local board of school directors, in the case of an existing school being converted to a charter school, shall establish the alternative arrangements for current students who choose not to attend the charter school.

(4) A charter application shall be deemed approved by the local board of school directors of a school district upon affirmative vote by a majority of all the directors.  Formal action approving or denying the application shall be taken by the local board of school directors at a public meeting, with notice or consideration of the application given by the board, under the “Sunshine Act.”

(5) Written notice of the board's action shall be sent to the applicant, the department and the appeal board.  If the application is denied, the reasons for the denial, including a description of deficiencies in the application, shall be clearly stated in the notice sent by the local board of school directors to the charter school applicant.

(f) At the option of the charter school applicant, a denied application may be revised and resubmitted to the local board of school directors.  Following the appointment and confirmation of the Charter School Appeal Board under section 1721-A,  5 the decision of the local board of school directors may be appealed to the appeal board.  When an application is revised and resubmitted to the local board of school directors, the board may schedule additional public hearings on the revised application.  The board shall consider the revised and resubmitted application at the first board meeting occurring at least forty-five (45) days after receipt of the revised application by the board.  For a revised application resubmitted for the 1997-1998 school year, the board shall consider the application at the first board meeting occurring at least thirty (30) days after its receipt.  The board shall provide notice of consideration of the revised application under the “Sunshine Act.”  No appeal from a decision of a local school board may be taken until July 1, 1999.

(g) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (e)(5), failure by the local board of directors to hold a public hearing and to grant or deny the application for a charter school within the time periods specified in subsections (d), (e) and (f) shall permit the applicant for a charter to file its application as an appeal to the appeal board.  In such case, the appeal board shall review the application and make a decision to grant or deny a charter based on the criteria established in subsection (e)(2).

(h) In the case of a review by the appeal board of an application that is revoked or is not renewed, the appeal board shall make its decision based on the criteria established in subsection (e)(2).  A decision by the appeal board under this subsection or subsection (g) to grant, to renew or not to revoke a charter shall serve as a requirement for the local board of directors of a school district or school districts, as appropriate, to sign the written charter of the charter school as provided for in section 1720-A.  6  Should the local board of directors fail to grant the application and sign the charter within ten (10) days of notice of reversal of the decision of the local board of directors, the charter shall be deemed to be approved and shall be signed by the chairman of the appeal board.

(i)(1) The appeal board shall have the exclusive review of an appeal by a charter school applicant, or by the board of trustees of an existing charter school, of a decision made by a local board of directors not to grant a charter as provided in this section.

(2) In order for a charter school applicant to be eligible to appeal the denial of a charter by the local board of directors, the applicant must obtain the signatures of at least two per centum of the residents of the school district or of one thousand (1,000) residents, whichever is less, who are over eighteen (18) years of age.  For a regional charter school, the applicant must obtain the signatures of at least two per centum of the residents of each school district granting the charter or of one thousand (1,000) residents from each of the school districts granting the charter, whichever is less, who are over eighteen (18) years of age.  The signatures shall be obtained within sixty (60) days of the denial of the application by the local board of directors in accordance with clause (3).

(3) Each person signing a petition to appeal denial of a charter under clause (2) shall declare that he or she is a resident of the school district which denied the charter application and shall include his or her printed name;  signature;  address, including city, borough or township, with street and number, if any;  and the date of signing.  All pages shall be bound together.  Additional pages of the petition shall be numbered consecutively.  There shall be appended to the petition a statement that the local board of directors rejected the petition for a charter school, the names of all applicants for the charter, the date of denial by the board and the proposed location of the charter school.  No resident may sign more than one petition relating to the charter school application within the sixty (60) days following denial of the application.  The department shall develop a form to be used to petition for an appeal.

(4) Each petition shall have appended thereto the affidavit of some person, not necessarily a signer, setting forth all of the following:

(i) That the affiant is a resident of the school district referred to in the petition.

(ii) The affiant's residence, giving city, borough or township, with street and number, if any.

(iii) That the signers signed with full knowledge of the purpose of the petition.

(iv) That the signers' respective residences are correctly stated in the petition.

(v) That the signers all reside in the school district.

(vi) That each signer signed on the date set forth opposite the signer's name.

(vii) That to the best of the affiant's knowledge and belief, the signers are residents of the school district.

(5) If the required number of signatures are obtained within sixty (60) days of the denial of the application, the applicant may present the petition to the court of common pleas of the county in which the charter school would be situated.  The court shall hold a hearing only on the sufficiency of the petition.  The applicant and local board of school directors shall be given seven (7) days' notice of the hearing.  The court shall issue a decree establishing the sufficiency or insufficiency of the petition.  If the petition is sufficient, the decree shall be transmitted to the State Charter School Appeal Board for review in accordance with this section.  Notification of the decree shall be given to the applicant and the local board of directors.

(6) In any appeal, the decision made by the local board of directors shall be reviewed by the appeal board on the record as certified by the local board of directors.  The appeal board shall give due consideration to the findings of the local board of directors and specifically articulate its reasons for agreeing or disagreeing with those findings in its written decision.  The appeal board shall have the discretion to allow the local board of directors and the charter school applicant to supplement the record if the supplemental information was previously unavailable.

(7) Not later than thirty (30) days after the date of notice of the acceptance of the appeal, the appeal board shall meet to officially review the certified record.

(8) Not later than sixty (60) days following the review conducted pursuant to clause (6), the appeal board shall issue a written decision affirming or denying the appeal.  If the appeal board has affirmed the decision of the local board of directors, notice shall be provided to both parties.

(9) A decision of the appeal board to reverse the decision of the local board of directors shall serve as a requirement for the local board of directors of a school district or school districts, as appropriate, to grant the application and sign the written charter of the charter school as provided for in section 1720-A.  Should the local board of directors fail to grant the application and sign the charter within ten (10) days of notice of the reversal of the decision of the local board of directors, the charter shall be deemed to be approved and shall be signed by the chairman of the appeal board.

(10) All decisions of the appeal board shall be subject to appellate review by the Commonwealth Court.

1 24 P.S. § 13-1327.1.
2 65 P.S. § 271 et seq. (repealed);  see now, 65 Pa.C.S.A. § 701 et seq.
3 24 P.S. § 17-1719-A.
4 24 P.S. § 17-1702-A.
5 24 P.S. § 17-1721-A.
6 24 P.S. § 17-1720-A.

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