Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Affirms Order Declaring Charter School Enrollment Caps Illegal

Jan 22, 2008, 00:00 ET from Chester Community Charter School

    CHESTER, Pa., Jan. 22 /PRNewswire/ -- On Friday, January 18, in a
 4-to-1 decision, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania affirmed a trial
 court's Order that declared illegal and unenforceable the Chester-Upland
 School District's attempt to impose enrollment caps on charter schools in
 the School District. The Commonwealth Court's decision constituted an
 agreement with the September 4, 2007 Order of Delaware County Court of
 Common Pleas President Judge Joseph P. Cronin, Jr. determining that limits
 on enrollment at charter schools in the School District are illegal and
 unenforceable and enjoining the School District from enforcing them.
     Widener Partnership Charter School, Chester Community Charter School
 and a number of parents of students in the Chester-Upland School District
 initiated litigation challenging the legality of the caps shortly after
 they were imposed following vocal opposition to the caps prior to their
 imposition. A ruling by the Commonwealth Court was necessitated by a
 complaint filed with the trial court that was brought by the Chester
 Community Charter School (CCCS), in which the school challenged the
 legality of the School District's enrollment cap resolution.
     The School District, both in the trial court and before the
 Commonwealth Court in its appeal, contended that the trial court lacked
 jurisdiction over the case, and that a school charter was, in its opinion,
 a contract between the School District and a charter school that could be
 unilaterally modified or partially cancelled by the School District.
     The Commonwealth Court's majority, however, ruled that the trial court
 did, in fact, have jurisdiction, and that the Chester-Upland School
 District lacked legal authority to impose limits on charter school
     Specifically, the Commonwealth Court stated: "a charter is not a
 contract, but a grant of power for the board of directors of that school to
 establish a school to provide public education to school-age children.
 Consequently, the [School District] did not have authority ... to limit
 Charter School enrollment."
     "This is a great legal victory for the students and parents of the city
 of Chester," said Chester Community Charter School CEO Steven Lee. "Now,
 families in the Chester community are assured of having the increased
 choice of educational options that was intended for them and their children
 under the law."
     Public records concerning charter school funding indicate that the
 Chester-Upland School District receives and spends an average of $12,000.00
 per student for those children enrolled in the School District's schools,
 while it transfers only about 75% of that amount-$9,170.00-to a charter
 school for each student who enrolls. On top of that, the School District is
 refunded about 28% of the $9,170.00 it transfers to the charter school.
 Despite its relative underfunding compared to the School District's schools
 and the corresponding savings it provides to taxpayers, Chester Community
 Charter School has the highest standardized test scores of any school in
 the School District.
     For example, in the PSSA scores released by the Pennsylvania Department
 of Education in August 2007, the Chester Community Charter School's
 students scored 60 in math, as compared to 21 for students in the Chester
 Upland School District's schools, as a whole, and 57 in reading, as
 compared to 27 for the District's students.
     Also commenting on the Commonwealth Court's decision was Magisterial
 District Judge Spencer B. Seaton, Jr., chairman of Chester Community
 Charter School's board of directors. "It is our hope," said Judge Seaton,
 "that, as we continue to pursue academic excellence for our students, that
 the same kind of improved learning environment will be increasingly
 available to more students in the Chester-Upland School District. That kind
 of educational opportunity is one of the primary predictors of the success
 our young people will be able to achieve as adults. It is also a critical
 factor in the economic rebirth we hope to achieve in the city of Chester."
     Chester Community Charter School opened its doors on September 9, 1998.
 Back then, the entire school was situated in four meeting rooms in the
 lobby of the Howard Johnson Hotel on the corner of Edgemont and Providence
 Avenues, in Chester, Pennsylvania. Chester Community Charter School started
 with 97 students and has steadily increased to over 2000 students in nine
 state-of- the-art buildings. Each school building has a computer lab and
 each classroom has an average of three computers, which are connected to
 the Internet with T- 1 lines. Chester Community Charter School has recently
 constructed a new middle school on its West Campus, and two gymnasiums, one
 on each campus.

SOURCE Chester Community Charter School