Converting the School District of the City of York to 100% Charter Schools
Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
Based on YorkCounts research and understanding of the laws and regulations under which charter schools operate in Pennsylvania
What’s the difference between charter schools and other public schools?
Ø Charter schools are public schools of choice. Parents or guardians choose to send their child to a charter school in place of their district-assigned school.
Ø Like traditional public schools, charter schools are free to all students.
Ø Charter schools must meet educational achievement goals and basic education requirements set by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
Ø Typically, charters offer innovative teaching methods or specialized education that distinguish them from traditional schools.
Ø Currently, charter schools do not have to accept every student that lives in the district but in a 100% charter school model, every student will be accepted.
Ø Special education students must also be served by the charter schools, which have the option to contract with the local Intermediate Unit to provide those services.
Ø At least 75% of the professional staff members of a charter school must hold appropriate State certification.
Ø All charter school employees are enrolled in the Public Employees Retirement System and must be provided the same health care benefits as employees of the school district. Each charter school board of advisors determines salary levels of teachers and staff.
Ø Charter school students take the same state standardized tests as traditional public school students and are required to report the results to the School District and Pennsylvania Department of Education.
How are charter schools funded?
Ø Charter schools are paid a per pupil rate that is calculated by a funding formula established by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. These funds come from local real estate taxes, State basic education funding and Federal funding.
Ø Charter schools can be non-profit or for-profit organizations. The York County Community Foundation recommends non-profit charters are selected so any earnings are invested back into the school.
How are charter schools performing?
Ø While local charters are not performing as well as others around the country, there are many examples of high-performing nonprofit charter schools operating throughout Pennsylvania and in other states. These charters have demonstrated that students with economic challenges equal to York City students can outperform their peers on state test scores.
How would the 100% charter model work in the York County Community Foundation’s YorkCounts proposal?
Ø The School District develops standards for charters and issues a request for proposals that attracts the best charter operators to York to serve students. Up to this point, the School District has only responded to applications for charters from local educators.
Ø The same charter operator could be selected for one or more of the 7 schools in the district.
Ø Our recommendation is that students could choose to attend any school in the City and not be restricted by neighborhood boundaries. Parents would be responsible for transportation or public transportation could be used if they chose to attend a school in a different neighborhood.
Ø Charter operators would be selected based on their ability to adhere to the best practices for successful schools including those described in our report A New EducationModel for York.
What happens to the Teachers, Administration and School Board in the 100% Charter model?
Ø All teachers, principals and administrative staff could apply for positions in the charter schools or submit an application to operate a charter school.
Ø There would be a need for district administrative staff to develop the district’s budget, guide the district in establishing the requirements for charters, evaluating and selecting charter schools and monitoring their performance, and reporting results to the Department of Education.
Ø By law, the elected School Board for the district would continue to exist and be responsible for governance of the district including establishing the requirements for charters, evaluating and selecting charter schools and monitoring their performance. It would also have the authority to levy and collect school taxes and approve the district’s budget.
Ø Each charter school would have its own Board of Advisors that can consist of parents and community volunteers from within or outside of the district. This Board would oversee all of the operations of the school.
Ø Each charter school would have a head of school or principal who is responsible for operations, implementing curriculum, recruiting students and hiring and firing of staff. The head of school reports to the charter school’s board of advisors.
What are the critical components of the York County Community Foundation’s YorkCounts proposal?
Ø The District would institute the Communities in School Model which provides a service coordinator at each school to bring in the highest quality services for students and links students with programs that best meet their needs. The aim is to provide coordinated access to the services that children may need to help them meet their academic, social and developmental goals. (http://www.cis-pa.org/)
Ø The Pennsylvania Department of Education would strengthen the ability of the School District to revoke a charter if it was not meeting academic and financial performance standards.
For more information about the Pennsylvania Charter School Law go here.