The merits of York City-based New Hope Charter School have yet to be debated.

But the grade is in on Pennsylvania's charter school law:

It flunks.

The York City school board last summer voted not to renew New Hope's charter, saying the 5-year-old school hasn't lived up to its academic expectations or followed state guidelines for operation.

Is that true?

We don't know, but some parents of the more than 700 New Hope students can't say enough good things about the school.

The state Charter Appeal Board will have the final say on the matter, which could take months.

There's nothing wrong with that. An impartial third party should make sure school districts aren't arbitrarily revoking charters for schools that compete with them for state funding.

The problem is if a charter school truly is under-performing: The way the law is written, it could continue to operate even after it loses its charter.

More than a month after the York City school board revoked New Hope's charter, the district sent a letter to school officials informing them they had missed a 30-day window to appeal, and their students should be preparing to return to city schools.

Long story short: New Hope told the district to kick rocks -- there is no appeal deadline in the state charter school law.

The state Charter Appeal Board this week agreed, siding with New Hope that its appeal -- filed 46 days after the district's decision -- can proceed.

In this case, a 15-day period makes little difference.


But what if a school that has lost its charter waits three months to appeal? How about six months to a year or more?

If a charter school actually is failing, it's in the district's and the state's best interest to get the students out of there.

Allison Peterson, the York City School District's attorney, acknowledged during Tuesday's hearing there's no deadline in the law. But she pointed out the Charter Appeals Board had previously indicated a 30-day deadline was in effect.

She urged the board to make a definitive deadline ruling, saying failure to do so would "cause a lot of chaos and uncertainty" for school districts and charters.

Secretary of Education Ronald Tomalis, the head of the charter school appeal board, was less than helpful in his reply: "If deadlines are critical, why wasn't there a deadline in the statute?"

There are any number of answers to that.

It was an oversight.


Because the law was poorly written and is badly in need of a revamp.

However, it's very unlikely legislators intended to allow underachieving schools to operate indefinitely without a charter.

Someone should take the responsibility to clarify the rules.

Since the Legislature couldn't get its act together last session to pass a revised charter school law, that task reasonably belongs to the appeals board.

Unfortunately, it failed.