Law School Case Brief
Northside Urban Pathways Charter Sch. v. State Charter Sch. Appeal Bd. (Pittsburgh Pub. Sch. Dist.) - 56 A.3d 80 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2012)
The State Charter School Appeal Board is a creature of the Public School Code of 1949, 24 Pa. Stat. Ann. §§ 1-101 - 27-2702, by virtue of its enabling provision at § 1721-A of the Charter School Law, 24 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 17-1721-A. The Charter School Law, 24 Pa. Stat. Ann. §§ 17-1701-A - 17-1751-A, expressly vests the Board with jurisdiction over every significant decision involving a charter school. The Board has exclusive jurisdiction over appeals by applicants from the denial of their initial applications for a charter. 24 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 17-1717-A(i)(1). The Board has jurisdiction to directly review and render a decision on a charter application where a school district fails to do so. § 17-1717-A(g). The Board has exclusive jurisdiction over an appeal of a school district's decision to revoke or not renew a charter. 24 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 17-1729-A(d). Finally, § 1721-A(b) of the Charter School Law provides that the Board shall meet as needed to fulfill the purposes provided in this subsection. § 17-1721-A(b). By necessary implication, the Board's authority to perform the above enumerated functions includes jurisdiction to hear appeals of adverse decisions on proposed charter amendments.
Pittsburgh Public School District granted a charter to Northside Urban Pathways Charter School, which was renewed twice thereafter, and allowed it to operate a school for grades 6 through 12. Based on significant learning gaps found in many of the students, the charter school sought to expand in order to offer grades K-5 as well. The school district denied the request to amend the charter and the charter school sought review. However, State Charter School Appeal Board (“Board”) held that it lacked jurisdiction to review the charter school's appeal, and accordingly, it granted the school district's motion to dismiss the matter.
Did the Board lack jurisdiction to review the charter school's appeal?
The court held that the Board's decision on the jurisdictional issue was erroneous. Although there was no express authority for charter amendments under the Charter School Law, 24 Pa. Stat. Ann. §§ 17-1701-A - 17-1751-A, the court determined that a school district had implied authority pursuant to 24 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 2-211 of the Public School Code of 1949, 24 Pa. Stat. Ann. §§ 1-101 - 27-2702, to consider and act upon a charter amendment proposed by a charter school. Further, the Board had implied authority to hear appeals of adverse decisions on proposed charter amendments in the same manner as review was conducted under 24 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 17-1729-A(d).
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