State: Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania State Guide

Choosing a school? You’ve got options.

Deciding where to send your child to school is a big decision, and you have access to more K-12 education options than you might realize. Navigating your school choice options in Pennsylvania can help you find a school where your child thrives! This post will breakdown the main types of schools available to you,  as well as provide additional education resources and school choice news.

Pennsylvania families can choose from traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online learning, and homeschooling. We’ll also cover how microschooling and mix-and-match learning fit into the school landscape!

Looking for special education options? You can learn what special education services are available in Pennsylvania at the Ultimate Guide to Special Education.

Pennsylvania Traditional Public Schools

In Pennsylvania, 76.6% of all K-12 students are enrolled in 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 $17,884 per public school student each year? 

In Pennsylvania, the state allows each district to set 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. So, Pennsylvania parents wanting to transfer their child to a different public school than the one they are assigned should contact their local school district about whether this is an option for them. Open enrollment is a valuable form of public school choice, expanding parents’ options and ensuring that their zip code isn’t the sole determiner of their education.

For a real-world example, check out Lancaster School District’s guidelines for both intradistrict and interdistrict transfers. Find out more about public schools in your state at the Pennsylvania Department of Education. You can also learn more about open enrollment at “Public Schools Without Boundaries: A 50-State Ranking.”

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. 

In Pennsylvania, 8.4% of all K-12 students attend a public charter school. 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. 

You can read about charter options at the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools.

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. 

In Pennsylvania, 1.5% of all K-12 students attend a public magnet school. Pennsylvania has several magnet schools throughout the state. For example, Pittsburgh Public Schools, Erie Public Schools, and the School District of Philadelphia have magnet choices, among others. Pennsylvania’s magnet choices range from Mandarin and Spanish programs to pre-engineering and performing arts. You can contact your school district to see if there are any options near you.

Philadelphia families, keep in mind that the district has implemented a new lottery admissions process for the 2023-2024 school year and beyond!

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. 

There are more than 2,000 private schools across the state of Pennsylvania. The average tuition for private schools in the state is $10,477 for elementary schools and $16,145 for high schools.

Some Pennsylvania families are eligible for state-run scholarship programs. Children from low or middle income families may be eligible for the Educational Improvement Tax Credit. These programs received a boost in Pennsylvania’s fiscal budget for 2022-2023, allowing an estimated additional 31,000 students to receive school choice scholarships. In Pennsylvania, 4% of all K-12 students are participating in a private school choice program.

Learn more about private schools and scholarship opportunities at Children’s Scholarship Fund-Philadelphia, CEO-America, Business Leadership Organized for Catholic Schools (BLOCS), the Extra Mile Education Foundation, the Pennsylvania Affiliate of the Council on American Private Education and Private School Review: Pennsylvania.

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 SchoolReach Cyber Charter SchoolAgora Cyber Charter SchoolCommonwealth Charter Academy, PA Leadership Charter SchoolPA Cyber Charter SchoolCentral PA Digital Learning FoundationPA Distance Learning Charter School, and Insight PA Cyber Charter SchoolEsperanza 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 6-12 can also consider 21st Century Cyber Charter School, and students in grades 7-12 can consider Achievement House 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, like the School District of Philadelphia’s Virtual AcademyPittsburgh Public Schools’ Online AcademyAllentown School District’s Virtual Campus, and Reading Virtual Academy. Contact your district to learn about any online options they may offer.

To read more about online learning in Pennsylvania, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

Pennsylvania Homeschooling

Homeschooling is another school option for Pennsylvania families. All 50 states permit homeschooling, which is the process of parents educating students at home.

In Pennsylvania, 2.1% of all K-12 students are homeschooled. 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.

Read more about Pennsylvania homeschooling at the Home School Legal Defense Association, or check out the LCC Homeschool Association of PA or the Christian Homeschool Association of Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Microschools and Mix-and-Match Learning

Today, many Pennsylvania families are mixing and matching school options to come up with new ways to personalize education. Microschools are one of these ways. A microschool refers to students gathering together in a small group – with adult supervision – to learn, explore, and socialize. Microschools can take a variety of shapes and legal forms, from homeschoolers coming together at an enrichment center to a private school committed to small classrooms. What microschools share in common is a distinct commitment to small-group learning, close-knit relationships, and an emphasis on children as individual learners.

Here are real examples of microschools and innovative learning resources in your state:  

  • KaiPod Learning partners with local groups in Harrisburg, Manheim, and Downingtown, Pennsylvania to make learning centers available to students.

 

  • Thrive Space is a microschool offering supplemental and creative education options, from mixed media sculpting classes to cooking classes. 

 

 

Remember, microschooling is more a mentality than a specific legal distinction in most cases. Often, a family participates in a microschool while legally homeschooling, or being enrolled in a private or online school. 

Download the School Choice Snapshot for Pennsylvania

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What is School Choice

How can it empower parents and help kids achieve their dreams?

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Choosing the Right School

Tips to help you find a school where your daughter or son will learn, succeed, and be happy.

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Search for Schools Near Me

School Type
Traditional public schools do not charge tuition. They are managed by school districts and do not require students to pass tests to enroll.
Public charter schools do not charge tuition. They are usually managed by nonprofit organizations and do not require students to pass tests to enroll.
Public magnet schools do not charge tuition. They are managed by school districts and focus on themes, such as math, science, technology, and the arts.
Private schools charge tuition, but scholarships are often available via state programs or by individual schools. Private schools are privately managed and can be faith-based or secular.
Grade Levels

Microschools and Mix-and-Match Learning

How can it empower parents and help kids achieve their dreams?

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7 Step Guide

Tips to help you find a school where your daughter or son will learn, succeed, and be happy.

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Every state is different when it comes to school choice options.

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Landmarks Across America Shine for School Choice Week 2024!

Did you witness the magic of National School Choice Week 2024? Starting January 21st, close to three dozen landmarks and notable buildings from Alaska to New York lit up in dazzling shades of yellow and red and created a vibrant celebration of K-12 education opportunities!

Alaska

JL Tower in Anchorage, Alaska

January 21-27, 2024

Anchorage

Arkansas

Junction Bridge in Little Rock, Arkansas

January 26, 2024

Little Rock

Main Street Bridge in Little Rock, Arkansas

January 26, 2024

Little Rock

Union Plaza in Little Rock, Arkansas

January 21-27, 2024

Little Rock

California

“M” at Box Springs Mountain in Moreno Valley, California

January 26, 2024

Moreno Valley

Union Station in Los Angeles, California

January 21-27, 2024

Los Angeles

Florida

Las Olas Centre in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

January 21-27, 2024

Fort Lauderdale

Platt Street Bridge in Tampa, Florida

January 22, 2024

Tampa

Kennedy Blvd Bridge in Tampa, Florida

January 22, 2024

Tampa

Old City Hall in Tampa, Florida

January 22, 2024

Tampa

Georgia

One Atlantic Center in Atlanta, Georgia

January 22, 2024

Atlanta

Hawaii

Aloha Tower in Honolulu, Hawaii

January 21-27, 2024

Honolulu

Idaho

8th and Main Tower in Boise, Idaho

January 21-27, 2024

Boise

Illinois

The Wrigley Building in Chicago, Illinois

January 25, 2024

Chicago

Willis Tower in Chicago, Illinois

January 21, 2024

Chicago

Indiana

AES Building in Indianapolis, Indiana

January 21, 2024

Indianapolis

Louisiana

Old State Capitol in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

January 21-27, 2024

Baton Rouge

State Capitol in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

January 21-27, 2024

Baton Rouge

The Governors Mansion in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

January 21-27, 2024

Baton Rouge

Minnesota

Lowry Avenue Bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota

January 26, 2024

Minneapolis

Missouri

Waldo Water Tower in Kansas City, Missouri

January 21-27, 2024

Kansas City

Nebraska

Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge in Omaha, Nebraska

January 23, 2024

Omaha

New York

Peace Bridge in Buffalo, New York

January 24, 2024

Buffalo

North Carolina

550 South Tryon Tower in Charlotte, North Carolina

January 27, 2024

Charlotte

Ohio

Dublin Link Bridge in Dublin, Ohio

January 26, 2024

Dublin

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio

January 21-27, 2024

Cleveland

Oklahoma

Choctaw Casino and Resort in Durant, Oklahoma

January 21-27, 2024

Durant

SkyDance Bridge in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

January 25, 2024

Oklahoma City

Oregon

Salem Convention Center in Salem, Oregon

January 20, 2024

Salem

Pennsylvania

The Symphony House Condo in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

January 26, 2024

Philadelphia

Koppers Building in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

January 24, 2024

Pittsburgh

Gulf Tower in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

January 24, 2024

Pittsburgh

South Carolina

Governor’s Mansion in Columbia, South Carolina

January 21-27, 2024

Columbia

Washington

Columbia Town Center in Seattle, Washington

January 23, 2024

Seattle

Wyoming

Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center in Laramie, Wyoming

January 23, 2024 

Laramie

If you know of a building in your community that would light up for National School Choice Week, please reach out to our team! Send us an email.

For journalists covering the Week, more information and resources to enhance your coverage on a variety of platforms can be found on our media resources page. For families interested in discovering more about the different school choice options available in their home state please visit your state page for a detailed roadmap.

National School Choice Week (NSCW) informs, inspires, and empowers parents to discover the K-12 education options available for their children, including traditional public, charter, magnet, online, private, and homeschooling.

Every January, tens of thousands of schools, organizations, and individuals plan unique events and activities to shine a positive spotlight on effective education options in their communities.  The Week is a project of the nonpartisan, nonpolitical National School Choice Awareness Foundation.