Lancaster school, city officials oppose proposed business charter school

Members of the public speak at a January 2014 hearing for the Academy of Business and Entrepreneurship Charter School.

The battle for an entrepreneurship-focused charter school in the School District of Lancaster isn't over.

In February, the SDL board rejected — for the second time — a proposal from the Academy of Business and Entrepreneurship Charter School to set up shop here.

Now the ABECS board is appealing that decision to the state.

SDL's February decision said the charter school application failed to show community support or how ABECS would provide comprehensive learning experiences.

ABECS attorney Jeffrey Stacey, of the Philadelphia firm O'Donnell Associates, said by phone Thursday that those claims lack merit.

Signatures of at least 1,000 district residents were required to launch an appeal. The ABECS petition, filed in the Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas on July 3, contains more than 2,000 signatures.

The next step, according to the state Department of Education, is for the court to certify the appeal and forward it to the state Charter School Appeals Board.

Once the appeal reaches the state board, a hearing will be held. After that, the board must issue a decision within 60 days.

SDL attorney Bob Frankhouser said the district is considering its options for the appeal process but will have an active role.

"The district can challenge the petition or the merits of the appeal before the Charter School appeals Board," he said.

Stacey, whose firm focuses on representing charter schools, said the appeal process could take months or a year.

If the appeal is granted, the SDL board would have 10 days to sign the charter. If the board opted not to do so, the charter would be deemed approved and signed by the Appeals Board chairperson.

The process for creating charter schools in Pennsylvania was established by a 1997 law. Of the 115 appeals decided since that time, the Appeals Board has granted 48 and denied 49, according to a state Department of Education spokesperson. The other 18 appeals were dismissed.

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Kara Newhouse is a Lancaster Newspapers staff writer who covers K-12 education trends and policies. She can be reached at knewhouse@lnpnews.com or (717) 481-6013. You can also follow @KaraNewhouse on Twitter.