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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 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

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 $17,884 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. 

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. 

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. For example, 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. 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.

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.

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?

      Read More

      7 Step Guide

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

      View Guide

      Education Resources for
      Pennsylvania Parents

      For additional information about school choices in Pennsylvania, visit these resources:

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

      Sign up below to get a detailed comparison:

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      Landmarks Across America Shine for School Choice Week 2023!

      Soon, from Alaska to New York, America will light up in yellow and red to raise awareness about K-12 education opportunities. During National School Choice Week, happening January 22–28, 2023, close to 3 dozen iconic landmarks or notable buildings will sparkle in red and yellow and play a role in festivities for National School Choice Week 2023.

      ALABAMA
      January 26, 2023 Montgomery RSA Tower in Montgomery, Alabama
      January 26, 2023 Mobile RSA Tower in Mobile, Alabama
      ALASKA
      January 22-28, 2023 Anchorage Anchorage JL Tower in Anchorage, Alaska
      ARIZONA
      January 25, 2023 Eloy Eloy Water Tower in Eloy, Arizona
      ARKANSAS
      January 22-28, 2023 Little Rock Union Plaza Building in Little Rock, Arkansas,
      January 23, 2023 Little Rock Junction Bridge in Little Rock, Arkansas
      January 23, 2023 Little Rock Clinton Presidential Park Bridge in Little Rock, Arkansas
      January 23, 2023 Little Rock Main Street Bridge in Little Rock, Arkansas
      COLORADO
      January 22-28, 2023 Denver McNichols Civic Center in Denver, Colorado
      FLORIDA
      January 27, 2023 Tampa Brorein Street Bridge in Tampa, Florida
      January 27, 2023 Tampa Fortune Street Bridge in Tampa, Florida
      January 27, 2023 Tampa Brorein Street Bridge in Tampa, Florida
      January 27, 2023 Tampa Kennedy Boulevard Bridge in Tampa, Florida
      January 27, 2023 Tampa Platt Street Bridge in Tampa, Florida
      January 27, 2023 Tampa Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park in Tampa, Florida
      January 27, 2023 Tampa Old City Hall in Tampa, Florida
      January 22-28, 2023 Fort Lauderdale Las Olas City Centre in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
      January 22-28, 2023 West Palm Beach Cox Science Center and Aquarium in West Palm Beach, Florida
      GEORGIA
      January 22-28, 2023 Atlanta King and Queen Building in Atlanta, Georgia
      January 22-28, 2023 Atlanta One Atlantic Center Fountain in Atlanta, Georgia
      IDAHO
      January 22-28, 2023 Boise Eighth & Main Office Tower in Boise, Idaho
      INDIANA
      January 25, 2023 Indianapolis AES Indiana in Indianapolis, Indiana
      January 25, 2023 Indianapolis Monument Circle in Indianapolis, Indiana
      KANSAS
      January 22, 2023 Overland Park Lighton Tower in Overland Park, Kansas
      KENTUCKY
      January 22-24, 2023 Louisville Big Four Bridge in Louisville, Kentucky
      LOUISIANA
      January 22-28, 2023 New Orleans Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana
      January 22-28, 2023 Baton Rouge Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
      MASSACHUSETTS
      January 25, 2023 Worcester Kenneth F. Burns Memorial Bridge in Worcester, Massachusetts
      January 25, 2023 Boston The Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge in Boston, Massachusetts
      NEBRASKA
      January 24, 2023 Omaha Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge in Omaha, Nebraska
      NEW YORK
      January 22-28, 2023 New York The Helmsley Building in New York City, New York,
      January 24, 2023 Buffalo Peace Bridge in Buffalo, New York
      January 26, 2023 Niagara Falls Niagara Falls in Niagara Falls, New York
      NORTH CAROLINA
      January 26, 2023 Winston-Salem Kimpton Cardinal Hotel in Winston-Salem, North Carolina
      OHIO
      January 22-28, 2023 Cleveland Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio,
      OKLAHOMA
      January 25, 2023 Oklahoma City Crystal Bridge Conservatory in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
      January 25, 2023 Oklahoma City Skydance Bridge in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
      PENNSYLVANIA
      January 23, 2023 Pittsburg Koppers Building in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
      January 23, 2023 Pittsburg Rugby's Gulf Tower Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
      SOUTH CAROLINA
      January 23, 2023 Columbia Governor’s Mansion in Columbia, South Carolina
      SOUTH DAKOTA
      January 25-27, 2023 January 23, 2023 Arc of Dreams in Sioux Falls, South Dakota
      WASHINGTON
      January 28, 2023 Seattle Columbia Center in Seattle, Washington
      WYOMING
      January 24, 2023 Laramie Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center in Laramie, Wyoming

      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.

      From Alaska to New York, America will light up in yellow and red to raise awareness about K-12 education opportunities during National School Choice Week 2022 (January 23-29). 

      Close to 3 dozen iconic landmarks or notable buildings will sparkle in red and yellow. Enjoy our gallery and click on each location for details. 

      VIEW PHOTO GALLERY: America Shines for School Choice Week

      PLEASE NOTE: If you plan to visit in person please check the local public health guidelines for your location and take the necessary precautions to keep yourself and others safe.

      Alabama: The Retirement Systems of Alabama Tower, Montgomery will light up from dusk – 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 26.
      The Retirement Systems of Alabama Tower, Mobile will light up from dusk – 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 26.
      Alaska: The JL Tower, Anchorage will light up in red from 4:00 p.m. – 9:00 a.m. all week from Jan. 23- 29.
      Arkansas: Union Plaza Building, Little Rock will light up from dusk – dawn all week from Jan. 23- 29.
      Colorado: The McNichols Civic Center, Denver will light up in red from dusk – dawn during the week Jan. 23-29.
      Florida: The South Florida Science Center and Aquarium, West Palm Beach will light up from 6:00 p.m. – 11:59 p.m. all week from Jan. 23- 29.
      Georgia: The King and Queen Building, Atlanta will light up from sunset – sunrise all week from Jan. 23- 29.
      Hawaii: The Aloha Tower, Honolulu will light up from sunset – sunrise all week from Jan. 23- 29.
      Idaho: The Eighth & Main office tower in Downtown Boise will light up from sunset – sunrise all week from Jan. 23-29.
      US Bank Plaza in Downtown Boise will light up from sunset – sunrise all week from Jan. 23- 29.
      Indiana: Monument Circle in Indianapolis will light up from dusk to dawn on Jan. 25.
      Kentucky: The Big Four Bridge, Louisville will light up from sunset – sunrise all week from Jan. 23-29.
      Maryland:  The Maryland Governor’s House, Annapolis, Maryland will light up from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm.
      Massachusetts: Kenneth F. Burns Memorial Bridge will light up from dusk – dawn on Jan. 23.
      Leonard Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge, Boston will light up from dusk – dawn on Jan. 23.
      Longfellow Bridge, Boston will light up from dusk – dawn on Jan. 23.
      Fore River Bridge, North Weymouth will light up from dusk – dawn on Jan. 23.
      Minnesota: Saint Anthony Falls Bridge, Minneapolis will light up from sunset – sunrise on Jan 24.
      Sperry Tower, Eagan will light up from sunset – sunrise on Jan 24.
      Missouri: Kansas City Power and Light Building, Kansas City will light up in yellow on Jan. 29.
      Nevada: Henderson Water Street District, Henderson will light up on Jan. 25.
      New York: Niagara Falls will light up from 10:00 p.m. – 10:15 p.m. on Jan. 27.
      The Helmsley Building, New York City will light up from dusk – 2:00 a.m. on Jan. 23.
      North Carolina: Wells Fargo Duke Energy Center in Charlotte will light up from sunset – 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 23.
      Reynolds Building/Kimpton Cardinal Hotel in Winston-Salem will light up from sunset – sunrise all week from Jan. 23-29.
      Ohio: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland will light up from dusk – dawn on Jan. 23.
      Oklahoma: Skydance Bridge, Oklahoma City will light up from sundown – sunrise on Jan. 27.
      Pennsylvania: Koppers Building, Pittsburgh will light up on Jan. 28.
      South Carolina: The South Carolina Governor’s Mansion, Columbia will light up on Jan. 24.
      Texas: McLennan County Courthouse, Waco  light up all week.
      Washington: Columbia Center, Seattle will light up from 12:30 pm – midnight on Jan. 22.
      Wyoming: The Marian H.Rochelle Gateway Center, Laramie will light up from dusk – dawn on Jan. 22.

      The landmarks’ sparkling red and yellow lights will play a role in this year’s festivities for National School Choice Week. Families are invited to capture pictures of the landmarks’ lights (or their own at-home red and yellow light displays!) to share on social media with the hashtag #SchoolChoiceWeek.

      In addition to the light displays, National School Choice Week 2022 will feature more than 26,000 virtual or socially-distanced celebrations across the country––including social media contests, drive-in movie screenings, and scavenger hunts, and virtual school fairs––to spread awareness of school and scholarship opportunities. 

       

      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.

      Soon, from Alaska to New York, America will light up in yellow and red to raise awareness about K-12 education opportunities. During National School Choice Week, happening January 22–28, 2023, close to 3 dozen iconic landmarks or notable buildings will sparkle in red and yellow. Enjoy our gallery from previous years and check back soon for locations and details. 

      VIEW PHOTO GALLERY: America Shines for School Choice Week

      <!– PLEASE NOTE: If you plan to visit in person please check the local public health guidelines for your location and take the necessary precautions to keep yourself and others safe.

      Alabama: The Retirement Systems of Alabama Tower, Montgomery will light up from dusk – 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 26.
      The Retirement Systems of Alabama Tower, Mobile will light up from dusk – 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 26.
      Alaska: The JL Tower, Anchorage will light up in red from 4:00 p.m. – 9:00 a.m. all week from Jan. 23- 29.
      Arkansas: Union Plaza Building, Little Rock will light up from dusk – dawn all week from Jan. 23- 29.
      Colorado: The McNichols Civic Center, Denver will light up in red from dusk – dawn during the week Jan. 23-29.
      Florida: The South Florida Science Center and Aquarium, West Palm Beach will light up from 6:00 p.m. – 11:59 p.m. all week from Jan. 23- 29.
      Georgia: The King and Queen Building, Atlanta will light up from sunset – sunrise all week from Jan. 23- 29.
      Hawaii: The Aloha Tower, Honolulu will light up from sunset – sunrise all week from Jan. 23- 29.
      Idaho: The Eighth & Main office tower in Downtown Boise will light up from sunset – sunrise all week from Jan. 23-29.
      US Bank Plaza in Downtown Boise will light up from sunset – sunrise all week from Jan. 23- 29.
      Indiana: Monument Circle in Indianapolis will light up from dusk to dawn on Jan. 25.
      Kentucky: The Big Four Bridge, Louisville will light up from sunset – sunrise all week from Jan. 23-29.
      Maryland:  The Maryland Governor’s House, Annapolis, Maryland will light up from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm.
      Massachusetts: Kenneth F. Burns Memorial Bridge will light up from dusk – dawn on Jan. 23.
      Leonard Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge, Boston will light up from dusk – dawn on Jan. 23.
      Longfellow Bridge, Boston will light up from dusk – dawn on Jan. 23.
      Fore River Bridge, North Weymouth will light up from dusk – dawn on Jan. 23.
      Minnesota: Saint Anthony Falls Bridge, Minneapolis will light up from sunset – sunrise on Jan 24.
      Sperry Tower, Eagan will light up from sunset – sunrise on Jan 24.
      Missouri: Kansas City Power and Light Building, Kansas City will light up in yellow on Jan. 29.
      Nevada: Henderson Water Street District, Henderson will light up on Jan. 25.
      New York: Niagara Falls will light up from 10:00 p.m. – 10:15 p.m. on Jan. 27.
      The Helmsley Building, New York City will light up from dusk – 2:00 a.m. on Jan. 23.
      North Carolina: Wells Fargo Duke Energy Center in Charlotte will light up from sunset – 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 23.
      Reynolds Building/Kimpton Cardinal Hotel in Winston-Salem will light up from sunset – sunrise all week from Jan. 23-29.
      Ohio: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland will light up from dusk – dawn on Jan. 23.
      Oklahoma: Skydance Bridge, Oklahoma City will light up from sundown – sunrise on Jan. 27.
      Pennsylvania: Koppers Building, Pittsburgh will light up on Jan. 28.
      South Carolina: The South Carolina Governor’s Mansion, Columbia will light up on Jan. 24.
      Texas: McLennan County Courthouse, Waco  light up all week.
      Washington: Columbia Center, Seattle will light up from 12:30 pm – midnight on Jan. 22.
      Wyoming: The Marian H.Rochelle Gateway Center, Laramie will light up from dusk – dawn on Jan. 22.

      The landmarks’ sparkling red and yellow lights will play a role in this year’s festivities for National School Choice Week. Families are invited to capture pictures of the landmarks’ lights (or their own at-home red and yellow light displays!) to share on social media with the hashtag #SchoolChoiceWeek.

      In addition to the light displays, National School Choice Week 2023 will feature more than 26,000 virtual or socially-distanced celebrations across the country––including social media contests, drive-in movie screenings, and scavenger hunts, and virtual school fairs––to spread awareness of school and scholarship opportunities. 

       

      –>
      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.