Pennsylvania state resources
Pennsylvania mandates licensing for K─12 private academic schools, except schools owned or operated by or under the authority of bona fide religious institutions, schools that are owned by colleges or universities, schools for the blind or deaf receiving Commonwealth appropriations, or schools accredited by accrediting associations approved by the state board of education. Religious-based schools are required to be registered with the state instead. All schools can choose to be accredited in lieu of meeting other requirements.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education has assembled a page of detailed requirements for private schools.
The US Office of Innovation & Improvement has assembled a summary of regulations for private schools operating in Pennsylvania.
Homeschooling must be done by a parent, guardian or licensed tutor.
The Pennsylvania DOE has no published requirements for school insurance -- consult a professional for guidance in this area.
State funding sources & support
Pennsylvania provides funding for private education:
Educational Improvement Tax Credit: Corporations can donate money to various scholarship organizations for tax credits and students can use awarded money for private school tuition and fees.
Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit: provides scholarships to eligible students who wish to attend a participating public or nonpublic school of their choice.
Private elementary schools are required to teach the following subjects: English, including spelling, reading and writing; arithmetic; geography; the history of the United States and of Pennsylvania; science; civics, including loyalty to the State and National Government; safety education, and the humane treatment of birds and animals; health, including physical education and physiology; music and art.
Private high schools must provide during grades 7–12 four semesters in the history and government of the United States and Pennsylvania to develop an appreciation for the American republican representative form of government, the benefits of the American way of life, and the individual’s duty to exercise the right to vote.
Teacher certification & hiring
Religious schools do not need to employ licensed teachers, but other schools must.
Food services / school lunch
In Pennsylvania, school lunch requirements, including funding for schools offering the National School Lunch Program, are managed by the Department of Education.
Length of school year
School must be in session a minimum of 180 days.
Recordkeeping and reports
Schools must report names, addresses, and attendance information for all students attending the school.
Health and safety requirements
Students must be immunized or provide documentation of exemption. Schools must have monthly fire drills.
Local school boards that provide transportation for public school students to school must provide identical transportation services for nonpublic school students enrolled in nonprofit schools within the district boundaries or outside the district boundaries at a distance not exceeding 10 miles by the nearest public highway.
There is no state testing policy.
State and regional associations
Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools: a not-for-profit voluntary membership organization serving more than 100 independent schools, representing close to 40,000 compulsory school age students, in Pennsylvania and Delaware.
Association of Delaware Valley Independent Schools: A dynamic community of independent schools in the Greater Delaware Valley and beyond, ADVIS enriches and sustains schools through advocacy, thought leadership, professional development, and networking opportunities.
Starting a Private School
Want to know more about opening a school? We’ve assembled a complete guide to starting a private school, with considerations for everything from planning and finance to branding, hiring, curriculum, facilities, and more!
We've done our best to pull together current and accurate information. Even so, there may be omissions or mistakes or content that needs to be updated. If you have recommendations for any resources or corrections, we appreciate your input so we can continue to improve this guide for everyone.
Nothing in this guide should be construed as legal, business, or tax advice. It is important that you engage qualified professionals who can advise you on such matters, and please visit the Department of Education pages for your state to verify you are in compliance with all regulations.