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State reaches settlement with western Pa. charter school, 1st Ld-Writethru

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A performing-arts charter school will no longer allow its students to attend classes in other school districts under an agreement to end a state investigation into the school's tuition billing practices, Pennsylvania's top education official said Thursday.

The state Education Department earlier this year accused Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School in Midland, Beaver County, of violating state law because some of its students were not receiving an academic curriculum, among other concerns.

"This agreement resolves the department's concerns, while allowing the charter school to continue enrolling students," Education Secretary Gerald L. Zahorchak said in a statement.

The school's board of directors unanimously approved the agreement Thursday night, said Fred Miller, a spokesman for the school. The agreement must now be formally signed off on by four neighboring districts, which is expected, he said.

The department's investigation found that some of Lincoln Park's students were taking classes in either the Midland Borough School District, which granted the performing arts school its charter in 2005, or in the neighboring Western Beaver County School District.

The agreement also bars the charter school from trying to collect tuition from six western Pennsylvania school districts that had students enrolled in the charter school but educated at Midland during the 2006-07 school year.

Midland Borough school's superintendent, Nick Trombetta, who helped establish the charter school, did not immediately return telephone messages seeking comment Thursday.

Charter schools are publicly funded, but independently operated. Their funding comes from a per-pupil tuition rate charged to the school districts where their students live.


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