What The Heck is a Charter School Anyway?

So far my research has been all public versus private.  But there is a third option.  While technically public, Philadelphia Charter Schools are a bit of a different animal.  Philadelphia has 71 charter schools.  According to the charter school website,

Charter Schools are independently operated PUBLIC schools that are funded with federal, state and local tax dollars.  These schools are established to provide families with more educational alternatives for their children. Charters are non-profit, non sectarian, organizations that are approved by the local Board of Education   (the “authorizer”) or the State Appeal Board. Each charter has its own Board of Trustees and administrative staff and operates as a separate, independent  local educational agency (LEA) within Intermediate Unit 26 (IU 26).  The Pennsylvania Charter School Law – Act 22 of 1997 – set up charters to operate free of many of the local and state requirements that apply to traditional public schools.

It is my understanding that all charter schools base their enrollment on a lottery system, with some schools giving preference to siblings in the same school.  I sampled a couple of schools websites, choosing from the Philadelphia Charter School Directory.  The schedule at Independence Charter is an application is made available in September, must be completed by November, and admissions are made in December for the following fall.  Discovery Charter has an October-March timeline for the following fall.

I like the idea of charter schools because of the inherent diversity, which my family values.  However, as kids could attend a charter from all over the city, our other strong value of community may suffer.  Presumably, the most compelling reason to go the charter route would be educational quality, though that may vary.  Many of the charters have specialties (especially in the upper grades), so quality of core curricular subjects may vary especially.  This will be a core of my research as I look into charter schools.

I am learning that when it comes to Philadelphia schools, it is hard to have your cake and eat it too.

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