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What is a Charter School

Is a charter school a public school?

Yes. Baden Academy, like other charter schools, is a self-managed public school that is approved – or chartered – by a local school district. This school district holds the school's charter, and oversees its performance.

Do charter schools charge tuition?

No. As public schools, charter schools are tuition-free educational alternatives.

Then where does the money come from to fund them?

Each student at a Pennsylvania public school is allotted a certain amount of public funding by his or her home district. When students enroll at a charter school, a portion (but only a portion) of that state funding follows them to the charter school.

Do charter schools have to meet state standards?

Yes. Charter school students take standardized assessments that measure their performance, just like other public schools.

How long have charter schools existed in Pennsylvania?

Charter schools have existed in Pennsylvania since 1997, when the Legislature approved and the governor signed Act 22.

Why do we need charter schools? Aren't there too many schools already?

Charter schools are different than regular public schools. Like Baden Academy and its arts-integrated curriculum, they may have a particular educational focus. But more broadly, the charter school model is all about providing alternatives to the traditional public education system.

Whether that means using new teaching strategies, developing exciting new curriculum, or offering students more hands-on learning opportunities, charter schools are committed to innovation – taking what works from the public education system, and fixing what doesn't.

That sounds good, but where's the accountability?

Charter schools have the ultimate form of accountability: choice. A family who feels that their student's educational needs are not being met by a charter school can withdraw that student at any time. Therefore, there is a powerful incentive for charter schools to offer the best teaching, curriculum and facilities possible, and to be customer- and service-driven.

In addition, charter schools are created and controlled by parents, teachers, community leaders and colleges or universities. These entities also have a strong interest in insuring that charter schools meet their public mandate.

For more information, visit the Pennsylvania Department of Education's web site at www.pde.state.pa.us or the Pennsylvania Coalition of Charter Schools' web site at www.pacharters.org.