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Charter School Ruling May Trouble Area Districts

HARRISBURG PA – A Commonwealth Court ruling Tuesday (July 22, 2014) could pave the way for charter schools outside Philadelphia to expand their operations and take on more students, The Pennsylvania Independent online news service reported. That spells potential trouble for local school districts already losing students to charter operations.

Charter School Ruling May Trouble Area DistrictsIn a 2-1 ruling, according to Independent reporter Eric Boehm, the court overturned an earlier decision from the state’s Charter Appeal Board that blocked the Lehigh Valley Dual Language Charter School from expanding its operations beyond a single school building.

The Pottsgrove, Pottstown, and Spring-Ford Area school districts all have lost students, and accompanying state funds to support them, to a variety of charter schools. Each has instituted programs to try and win some of them back to their classrooms. The potential ability for charter schools to expand the number of locations in which they operate could over time challenge the districts’ efforts.

In the majority opinion, Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer said the court would not rely on “permissive special provisions” that allow charter schools in only one school district to expand.

That rule, she wrote, prohibits “the ability of all other charter schools in other school districts to amend the terms of their existing charters to allow the charter schools to make the fundamental decisions that would allow the school to continue to operate, such as adding a second location for existing students.”

The court ordered the state Charter Appeals Board to hold another hearing on the question of whether the charter school in this case can open a second location, thus giving the school district a chance to oppose those plans for other reasons.

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