The William Penn Charter School has been in continuous operation for over 300 years since its founding in 1689 and proudly traces its origin and name to William Penn. Although it has changed names, locations and curriculum during that time (the original name was the Public Grammar School), Penn Charter's Quaker roots have remained constant.
William Penn's unique concept was to create a school that would educate not only to the wealthy but also students of limited means. Because public charity was a basic rule of Quaker life, William Penn specified that poor children in Pennsylvania were to be educated for free. As early as 1697 the Overseers established a fund so that the children of the poor could attend. Penn Charter has long history of access and was among the first to offer: education to different religions (1689), financial aid (1701), education for girls (1754) and education for all races (1770). Betsy Ross, African-American abolitionist and businessman James Forten, and Roberts Vaux, the man who led the movement for a public school law in Pennsylvania, were all students of the original Penn Quaker School.