Charter Schools

Charter schools are a valuable part of our educational system, offering alternatives to the methodologies of public schools. Educators can create a unique learning environment without many of the legislative requirements of public schools, and students can benefit from educators’ unique vision. These schools, both new schools and well-established institutions, have unique legal needs, but having the experienced Philadelphia charter school lawyers at MacMain Leinhauser by your side can help schools navigate these challenges with ease.

New Charter Schools

Establishing a new charter school is an exciting undertaking that can also be somewhat overwhelming. New schools must successfully submit an application and acquire funding in order to establish themselves. Charter schools are eligible for traditional loans but may benefit more from tax-exempt bond financing when available. In either case, new schools must ensure that they have access to the capital they need to run successfully.

The school itself also must be acquired. Many new charter schools operate out of former municipal school buildings that have been purchased or leased. Both the School District of Philadelphia and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia may have properties available for these purposes. Properties must be inspected and approved for charter school use, and some may require extensive renovation. Educators may also choose to purchase land and build a new structure, provided that the property can be zoned for an educational institution. All construction contracts must adhere to Charter School Law.

Charter School Governance

Educators can have very specific visions for how they want their school to operate, and it is important to get these policies down in writing. Employee manuals and codes of conduct must be written in language that is clear, comprehensive, and appropriate to the mission of the school. School policies must be compliant with both Charter School Law and federal tax law, and they must remain so if they are revised at any time.

The policy requirements for the board of trustees are even more stringent, as they are considered public officials. The responsibilities and restrictions of board members must be clearly outlined in their board training and reiterated periodically.

Ongoing Legal Issues

Once they are established, charter schools will have ongoing legal needs that will require the aid of a charter school lawyer. Schools will periodically be required to renew their charter contracts, and they will need to maintain a good working relationship with the School District of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Department of Education, and other governing bodies. Contracts with vendors will need to be negotiated or renegotiated, and fundraising efforts must be conducted within the bounds of the law.

The state of Pennsylvania has specific regulations regarding special education. Accommodations must be made for students with learning challenges so that they are assured a quality education. Teachers must be thoroughly trained to ensure that techniques used in the classroom are both practical and compliant with the law.

Schools may also require legal representation in dealing with a number of personnel matters, including:

  • Employment of faculty and administrative staff
  • Board member succession
  • Compliance with employment statutes
  • Union relations
  • Settling disputes involving staff or students
  • Disciplinary measures for staff or students, including expulsion
  • Constitutional issues relating to free speech, religion, or search

Charter school lawyers offer valuable assistance in ensuring that policies are enforced in such a way that does not violate the rights of anyone involved under educational statutes such as Title IX, FERPA, ADA and §504, or employment statutes such as HIPPA, ADA, FMLA, and Affirmative Action laws.

The charter school lawyers at MacMain Leinhauser offer comprehensive legal representation to charter schools in the Philadelphia area. We understand the complexities of Pennsylvania education law and handle all types of legal matters so that educators can focus on their students. Our legal team is dedicated to resolving issues efficiently and satisfactorily, and we are prepared to take on arbitration or litigation as needed to protect our clients’ interests.