Choosing a school? You Will have options.
Deciding where to send your child to school is a big decision, and under my plan you will have access to more K-12 education options across the Commonwealth.
Having more options in Pennsylvania will help you find a school where your child thrives! My plan proposes six types of schools that will be available to parents.
Pennsylvania families can choose from traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online academies, and homeschooling.
Pennsylvania Traditional Public Schools
Most Pennsylvania families choose traditional public schools. These schools are operated by districts, free to attend, open to all students, and funded by taxpayers. Did you know that, on average, Pennsylvania spends $17,142 per public school student each year?
In Pennsylvania, the state already allows each district to decide its own open enrollment policies. Open enrollment refers to whether parents can send their children to any public school, regardless of where it is located. My plan for parental choice would expand this to allow all, parents wanting to transfer their child to a different public school than the one they are assigned but would allow local school districts to choose to accept or decline prospective transfers. All school districts opting to accept students from outside their district can not discriminate based on upon an individual’s sex, race, ethnicity, national origin, age, religion or any other legally protected characteristics.
Pennsylvania Charter Schools
Charter schools are another important option for Pennsylvania families. Like traditional public schools, charter schools are public, free, and typically have no requirements for entry. What distinguishes charter schools is that they have extra freedom to innovate with learning methods and are accountable to authorizing bodies for results.
Pennsylvania families can choose from more than 180 public charter schools, including several cyber charter schools. Each school has a charter which explains the school’s purpose and what specific community need it serves. That could look like a Spanish immersion program or a rigorous, literacy-based curriculum. If there are more families seeking admittance to a charter school than there are seats, a lottery system (like drawing random names out of a hat!) is usually used to determine admittance.
The current system requires local school board approval to start a charter school my plan would take this power away from local school board’s and have the PA Department of Education approve Charter Schools. I feel the local school board has a vested interest to deny charter schools as they are competition.
Pennsylvania Magnet Schools
You can also choose magnet schools! These free public schools allow kids to zoom in on a specific learning track. At a magnet school, all the subjects are taught through the lenses of that specific track. If there is a magnet school near you with a theme that interests your child, this could be an exciting option to consider.
Pennsylvania has several magnet schools throughout the state. For example, Pittsburgh Public Schools and the School District of Philadelphia both have magnet choices, among others. Pennsylvania’s magnet choices range from Mandorin and Spanish programs to pre-engineering and performing arts. You can contact your school district to see if there are any options near you.
Pennsylvania Private Schools
Private schools are nonpublic schools that charge tuition. Private schools offer a unique learning environment that may be smaller in size, pass on a religious tradition, or provide a curriculum not available in your district school.
Some Pennsylvania families are eligible for state-run scholarship programs. If you live in a low-achieving school zone and meet certain income requirements, you may be able to participate in the state’s Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program. Or, children from low or middle income families may be eligible for the Educational Improvement Tax Credit.
Pennsylvania Online Learning
Don’t overlook online learning, which offers a uniquely flexible learning environment that meets a variety of family needs. Whether your child wants to accelerate learning or needs a quieter environment, you may be interested in considering virtual school. If you choose online learning in Pennsylvania, you’re in good company. More than 60,000 Pennsylvania students attended a cyber charter school in 2020-2021.
Pennsylvania offers several free, full-time online learning options for students, such as PA Virtual Charter School, Reach Cyber Charter School, Agora Cyber Charter School, Commonwealth Charter Academy, PA Leadership Charter School, PA Cyber Charter School, Central PA Digital Learning Foundation, PA Distance Learning Charter School, and Insight PA Cyber Charter School. Esperanza Cyber Charter School and ASPIRA Bilingual Cyber Charter School also serve grades K-12 statewide; these two schools offer special programming for bilingual students.
Students in grades 7-12 can also consider 21st Century Cyber Charter School or Achievement House Cyber Charter School, and students in grades 9-12 have another option in SusQ Cyber Charter School. Finally, students between the ages of 17 and 20 who are seeking to finish their high school diploma can choose Passport Academy Charter School. You can find contact information for these cyber charter options at the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
After a student has been accepted into a cyber charter school, his or her family must complete withdrawal paperwork as their assigned school to ensure that there are no gaps in enrollment and that funding follows the child.
In Pennsylvania, most statewide online school options are charter schools. But, there are also some districts that have developed online options recently, like the School District of Philadelphia’s Virtual Academy, Pittsburgh Public Schools’ Online Academy, Allentown School District’s Virtual Campus, and Reading Virtual Academy. Contact your district to learn about any online options they may offer.
Homeschooling is another school option for Pennsylvania families. All 50 states permit homeschooling, which is the process of parents educating students at home.
If you’re using the homeschooling statute in Pennsylvania, it is required that you provide notice of your intent to homeschool by submitting a notarized affidavit at the time of choosing homeschool and annually by August 1. It is recommended that you formally withdraw from your current school so your student is not marked truant.
The state requires homeschooling parents to teach specific subjects (like English, science, and health) and also requires standardized testing in specific grades if you are using the homeschooling statute. Note that your homeschooled student in Pennsylvania may still be eligible to participate in sports or activities at your local public school; if you are interested, ask your district about their policies. Also, homeschoolers with special learning needs are eligible to receive special education support and resources from local public-school districts.
How do we afford this?
My plan would allot $17,000 per student. Some districts receive more than this in terms of property taxes, and some receive less. For instance, Council Rock School District in 2018-2019 received $21,963 per student. So, the state would not supplement a student in this case. However, in Carbondale Area School District, where the tax revenue was only $15,714, the Commonwealth would supplement up to $1,286 if needed to attend another school of the parent’s choice. This levels the playing field for all students. If you wish to see how much tax revenue your school district receives per student, click here.
The tax dollars up to $17,000 will follow the student to the school of the parent’s choosing. This means if a parent from Council Rock School District wants to send their student to Archbishop Wood which has a tuition of $10,250, Council Rock School District will send Archbishop wood $10,250 for the tuition of that student. Council Rock School District would keep the extra tax revenue.
Parents of homeschooled children and those 65 and older will only be responsible for 50% of their school taxes. We can fund this through the annual surplus.