Charter Schools - State Profile

Charter Schools - State Profile - Ohio

January 2016

Charter School Basics
Does the state have a charter school law? Yes. Such schools are referred to as community schools. Terms are for up to 7 years. New (or "start-up") charter schools are only allowed in "challenged school districts," or districts meeting certain criteria, including low performance.
Does the state allow existing public schools to convert to charter schools? Yes. However, a vote of the majority of the board or governing authority is required. In addition, only local school boards or boards of education service centers may sponsor conversion schools.
Does the state specify the charter schools or the students that may be given preference? Yes. A charter school must give preference to students who attended the school the previous year and to students who reside in the school district in which the school is located. A charter school may give preference to siblings of students who attended the school the previous year. The minority and ethnic enrollment must reflect the community that the charter school serves, and charter schools must comply with any desegregation order in effect. Schools cannot admit on the basis of intellectual ability, achievement or aptitude or athletic ability.

Charter schools are permitted to target certain grade levels or age groups, at risk, residents of geographic areas, separate groups of autistic and nondisabled students. Single gender schools are permitted. 
Does the state have any caps on the number of charter schools? Yes. For each of the 5 years after the effective date of amending legislation (February 2016), the department can approve up to 20 applications to establish or continue charter schools, but only 5 can be new schools. Each sponsor can enter into preliminary agreements and sponsor up to 100 schools.

New internet- or computer-based schools are capped at 5 each year. Enrollment growth in internet- or computer-based schools is limited to:
  • 15% for a school with enrollment the previous year of 3,000 or more students
  • 25% for a school with enrollment the previous year of less than 3,000 students
Prior to July 1, 2013, there was a moratorium on new internet- or computer-based schools unless they were open as of May 1, 2005.

Who Can Authorize Charter Schools?
Does the state specify who may apply to open a charter school? Yes. Any person or group of individuals may apply to the department of education to open a new charter school. Any person or group of individuals can propose a new charter school in a "challenged" district or propose conversion of all or a portion of a school operated by an education service center.
To whom can charter applicants apply? New charter school applicants can apply to the department of education or any sponsor approved by the department of education. Approved sponsors may include: local board in which the school is located; a board of a vocational district (with some geographic restrictions); other local governing boards (with geographic restrictions); educational service centers; the board of trustees of state universities or their designated sponsoring authorities; a qualified tax-exempt entity that meets other requirements; or the mayor of a city in which the district is located. Any sponsor requesting to form a new charter school in the Cleveland Transformation Alliance must be reviewed by and receive a recommendation from the alliance. New (or "start-up") charter schools are only allowed in "challenged school districts," or districts meeting certain criteria, including low performance.

Conversion charter school applicants can apply only to local school boards or boards of education service centers. 

The department of education is responsible for approval of entities seeking to sponsor schools and oversight of any and all sponsors. Sponsors that the department can consider are limited to education-oriented, tax-exempt entities. The department if required to post each contract agreement online.
Is there a statewide authorizing body? Yes. The state department of education functions as a statewide authorizing body, particularly because it approves and provides oversight of each of the sponsors and can approve schools anywhere in the state.
Is there an appeals process for charter applicants? No (effective February 2016)
Does the state provide technical assistance to charter schools? Yes. The state department of education is responsible for providing technical assistance to parties developing and starting charter schools and to schools and sponsors in compliance.
Accountability for Schools and Authorizers
Does the state require charter schools to submit annual reports? Yes. The department of education issues a school report card annually and each charter is required to disseminate that report to all parents, the board of education for the district in which the school is located, and to anyone requesting one.
Does the state specify grounds for terminating or not renewing a school’s charter? Yes. A sponsor may choose not to renew a contract or terminate the contract prior to its expiration for the following reasons:
  • Failure to meet student performance requirements stated in the contract
  • Failure to meet generally accepted standards of fiscal management
  • Violation of any provision of the contract or applicable state or federal law
  • Another good cause 
Sponsors may also terminate a charter school's contract if it has been suspended for not complying with health and safety standards.

In lieu of terminating or suspending a contract, the sponsor may place the charter school on probationary status for the remainder of the school year. The sponsor will monitor the actions taken by the school's governing authority to remedy the situation and may take steps to suspend or terminate the contract if the governing authority is not willing or able to remedy the conditions.
Does the state provide an appeals process in the charter school renewal process? As of February 1, 2016, there is no appeals process.
Has the state established standards for quality school authorizing that authorizers must meet? Yes. The department of education is to prescribe quality practices and develop an instrument to measure adherence. Standards are required to be based on standards developed by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) or other national community school [charter school] organization. The department is required to annually rate all sponsors as "exemplary," "effective" or "ineffective." 
Does the state set a threshold beneath which a school must automatically be closed (where the authorizer must close it)? No
Does the state require the authorizer to report on the performance of their portfolio of schools? Yes. However, it is the state department of education--not the authorizer--that reports on the sponsors it has approved (as well as on its approvals) . By December 31 of each year, the state department of education must issue a report to the governor, the speaker of the house of representatives, the president of the senate, and the chairpersons of the house and senate education committees. The report must contain information regarding the effectiveness of academic programs, operations and legal compliance of all community schools, and on the performance of community school sponsors.

Beginning with the 2015-2016 school year, the department of education crated an annual evaluation system that gives each sponsor an overall rating based on several components, including annual performance of students, compliance with quality authorizing practices outlined in statute, and compliance with applicable policies.

Beginning in the 2016-2017 school year, each sponsor must submit a report to the department of education describing the sponsor's expenditures in providing monitoring, oversight, and technical assistance to the schools it sponsors.
Are there sanctions in place for authorizers? Yes. Sponsors with an overall rating of "exemplary" for at least two consecutive years and who maintain that rating are not subject to the 100-school sponsorship limit, while sponsors with lower ratings are subject to that limit.

Agreements between the sponsor and the department must include parameters for and circumstances when the department will intervene and potentially suspend or revoke a sponsor's chartering authority. The department may intervene and potentially suspend or revoke a sponsor's authority if the sponsor is unwilling or unable to fulfill its duties. The agreement must also include a provision allowing the department to modify the agreement in instances of poor fiscal management and lack of academic progress. In lieu of revoking sponsoring authority, the department may also place a sponsor on probationary status for noncompliance.

If the state board of education finds a sponsor is not in compliance or is no longer willing to comply with its contract, they must hold a hearing and may revoke the sponsorship. This decision may be appealed.
Charter School Autonomy
Are the state’s standards and assessments applied to charter schools? Yes
What rules are waived for charter schools? Except as otherwise specified in the state's charter school law and in the contract between a charter school and a sponsor, a charter school is exempt from all state laws and rules pertaining to schools, school districts, and boards of education, except those laws and rules that grant certain rights to parents. Charter schools must comply with certain laws pertaining to, among others:
  • Assessments
  • Health and safety
  • Student discipline 
All policies requiring compliance are outlined in statute.
Charter School Finance
Through whom does a charter school receive its funding? The state
How is the funding for a charter school determined? Charter schools receive state foundation aid based on full-time enrollment and targeted assistance aid for career-technical, special education, economically disadvantaged, and limited English proficiency students. Although charter schools cannot levy taxes or issue bonds secured by tax revenues, school districts can levy taxes for charter schools sponsored by exemplary sponsors. Authorizers can retain up to 3% of the total amount of payments for operating expenses that the charter school receives for administration fees.
Does the state provide start-up and/or planning grants to charter schools? Yes. Subject to legislative appropriations, the department of education may make a loan from the Community School Revolving Loan Fund to a charter school to cover start-up costs.
Does the state provide direct facilities funding to charter schools? Yes. A per-pupil facilities aid allowance is included in the state allocation. In addition, high-performing charter schools have access to grants for facilities-related costs through the Community School Classroom Facilities grant program
Does the state provide other facilities assistance to charter schools? Subject to legislative appropriation, charter schools may use loans guaranteed under the Facilities Loan Guarantee Program to acquire, improve, or replace classroom facilities. When a school district decides to dispose of property, it must first offer that property for sale to the governing authorities of certain start-up charter schools and the board of trustees of any college-preparatory boarding school that are located within the territory of the school district at a price that is not higher than the appraised fair market value of that property. If more than one community school governing authority or college-preparatory boarding school board of trustees accepts the offer the board must sell the property to the governing authority or board that accepted the offer first. The district is allowed to dispose of the property if no charter school offers to buy or lease the building within 60 days after the district makes the offer.
Does the state specify who must provide transportation to charter school students? Yes. The school district must provide transportation to resident students attending a charter school within the school district. The district can enter into an agreement with the charter school governing authority for transportation, which must be approved by the state superintendent. If a charter school provided transportation to a student in the previous school year it must provide transportation to that student in subsequent school years unless the charter school submits written notification to the school district. 
Charter School Teachers
Do teachers in a charter school have to be certified? Yes. However, a charter school may engage noncertificated persons to teach up to 12 hours per week. (Note: This option is not unique to charter schools--districts can employ such noncertified persons as well.)

Cyber charter schools (or Internet-based schools) must have an affiliation with at least one full-time teacher certificated in Ohio.
What sets teacher salaries? For conversion schools, the collective bargaining agreement would set salaries unless there is an agreement that employees are not part of the bargaining agreement. For start-up schools that are their own LEAs, the governing body would set salaries, although employees could choose to create a bargaining agreement.
Does the state require school districts to grant teachers a leave of absence to teach in a charter school? Yes. A minimum of 3 years. 
Are charter schools bound by school district collective bargaining agreements? New charter schools: No. In new charter schools, teachers may work independently or form a collective bargaining unit.

Conversion schools: Yes. Conversion charters are subject to a school district's collective bargaining agreement, unless a majority of the charter school's teachers petition to work independently or form their own unit.
Do teachers in each of a state’s charter schools have equal access to the public school teachers’ retirement system? Yes
Cyber or Virtual Charters
Does state law explicitly define or permit cyber/virtual charter schools? Yes
Is there additional oversight specific to cyber/virtual charter schools? Yes. Limits new Internet- or computer-based schools to 5 each year and such schools require the approval of the superintendent of public instruction. The superintendent may only approve applicants demonstrating experience and quality.

Starting February 1, 2016, all cyber charter schools must comply with standards for online schools and programs developed by the international association for K-12 online learning (iNacol).

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