Charter Schools: State Profile

Charter Schools: State Profile - Ohio

January 2018


Charter School Basics 2018
Does the state have a charter school law? Yes, referred to as community schools. Charter schools have initial contract terms for up to 5 years. New (or "start-up") charter schools are limited to "challenged school districts," meaning school districts that meet certain criteria, including low performance.

Citations: Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.01 et al., Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.02, Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.03

Does the state allow existing public schools to convert to charter schools? Yes. Applications for conversion charter schools must include alternative arrangements for current students and teachers who choose not to attend the converted school. Only local school boards or boards of education service centers may sponsor conversion schools. Sponsors of proposed conversion charter schools that would operate in an alliance municipal school district are subject to approval by the department of education, with some exceptions.

Citations: Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.02

Does the state have any caps on the number of charter schools? Yes. Each authorizer, aside from the department of education, can sponsor up to 100 schools, although authorizers with an overall rating of exemplary for at least two consecutive years are not subject to the limit as long as they maintain their rating. The department may only approve up to 20 charter school applications per year, with only 5 new schools per year, for each of the 5 years following the effective date of amending legislation (February 2016).

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.

Citations: Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.013; Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.015; Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.029; Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.20

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 or conversion charter school. New charter schools may only be opened in a "challenged school district," meaning districts that meet certain criteria, such as low performance. 

Citations: Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.01, Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.02, Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.029

Does the state specify the types of charter schools that may be given approval preference? No. However, new charter schools may only be started in "challenged school districts," meaning school districts that meet certain criteria, including low performance.

Citations: Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.02

Does the state specify the students who may be given enrollment preference? Yes. If applications excelled capacity, the charter school must hold a lottery and must give preference to previously-enrolled students and students who reside in the school district in which the school is located. The school may give preference siblings of students who attended the school the previous year. The school may give preference to children of staff, if the total number of such students is less than 5% of the school's enrollment.

Each charter school must adopt an admission policy for students residing outside of the school district in which the charter school is located. The policy must do one of the following: 
  • Enroll only students residing in the school district in which the charter school is located.
  • Allow students residing in adjacent school districts to enroll.
  • Allow students residing in any school district in the state to enroll.

Finally, a charter school's contract must specify the ways by which the school will achieve racial and ethnic balance reflective of the community that the charter school serves, and charter schools must comply with any desegregation order in effect.

Citations: Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.03, 3314.06

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, unless the charter school and school district have an agreement requiring the charter school to provide transportation or the charter school accepts responsibility for transportation. The agreement 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. 

Citations: Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.09, Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.091

Charter School Authorizing 2018
What organizations may authorize charter schools, and is there a statewide authorizing body? New charter school applicants can apply to the department of education, which serves as the statewide authorizing body, or any sponsor approved by the department of education. Authorizers must apply to and receive approval from the department of education prior to authorizing any charter schools. The department of education is responsible for approval of entities seeking to sponsor schools and oversight of any and all sponsors. Conversion charter school applicants may only apply to local school boards or boards of education service centers. 

Approved authorizers may include: local board of the school district in which the school is to be located; a board of a vocational district (with some geographic restrictions); other local school district governing boards if they have territory in the same county of the school district in which the proposed school would be located; 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.

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 other sponsors are subject the limit.

Citations: Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3311.86, Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.015, Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.02, Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.029

Is there an appeals process for charter applicants? No 

Citations: Previously department of ed denials could be appealed, but removed in SB 2 (2015) (previously in Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.029(A)(2))

Has the state established standards for quality school authorizing that authorizers must meet? Yes. The department of education, in consultation with authorizers, must prescribe quality practices for charter school authorizing and develop an instrument to measure adherence to the practices. The quality practices must be based on standards developed by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) or another national charter school organization.

Citations: Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.016

Does the state require the authorizer to report on the performance of its portfolio of schools? Yes, but authorizers report to the department of education and the department issues an annual performance report. Each authorizer must submit an annual report to the department of education with academic performance, fiscal performance, organization, and operational information about the charter schools it oversees, plus information about the authorizer's financial situation. 

The department of education must issue an annual report regarding the effectiveness of academic programs, operations and legal compliance of all charter schools, and on the performance of charter school authorizers. The report is issued 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. In addition, the department of educaiton must publish various information on its website, including information about authorizers' and charter schools' ratings, school closing, charter school applications, and so on.

​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.

Citations: Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.015, Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.016, Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.025, Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.03, Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.039

Are there sanctions in place for authorizers? Yes. ​The department of education has an annual evaluation system that gives each authorizer 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. 

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.

Sponsors without an overall rating of "exemplary" for at least two consecutive years and do not maintain that rating are subject to the state's 100-school sponsorship limit.

Citations: Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.015, Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.016

Charter School Autonomy and Accountability 2018
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.

Citations: Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.03, Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.04

Does the state specify grounds for terminating or not renewing a school’s charter? Yes. An authorizer 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 .

Authorizers may also terminate a charter school's contract if it has been suspended for not complying with health and safety standards. Finally, authorizers may suspend a charter school's contract in lieu of termination.

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.

Citations: Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.03, Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.07, Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.072, Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.073

Does the state set a threshold beneath which a charter school must automatically be closed? Yes. Low-performing charter schools that meet certain criteria - such as receiving an 'F' grade under the state's accountability system and not meeting the state's annual measurable objectives - must be permanently closed at the conclusion of the school year. 

Citations: Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.35

Charter School Finance 2018
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.

Citations: Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.08; Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.029

Who provides charter schools with their funding? The state

Citations: Ohio Rev.Code Ann. § 3314.08 (D & E)

Does the state provide start-up or planning grants to new 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.

Citations: Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.30

What kind of facilities funding is available to charter schools? Direct funding:
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

Other funding:
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.

Citations: Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3318.052; HB 59, Appropriation Item 200684; Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.30; R.C. § 3318.50; Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3313.41;

Charter School Teachers 2018
Do teachers in a charter school have to be certified? Yes. However, a charter school may engage uncertified teachers to teach up to 12 hours per week. (Note: This option is not unique to charter schools--districts can employ such uncertified persons as well.) VIrtual schools must have an affiliation with at least one full-time teacher certificated in Ohio.

Citations: Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.03, Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.21, Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3319.283

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 new charter schools, the governing body would set salaries, although employees could choose to create a bargaining agreement.

Citations: Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.10

Does the state require school districts to grant teachers a leave of absence to teach in a charter school? Yes. At least 3 years. 

Citations: Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.10

Do teachers in a state’s charter schools have equal access to the public school teachers’ retirement system? Yes

Citations: Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3307.01

Virtual Charter Schools 2018
Does state law explicitly allow virtual charter schools? Yes. There is a limit of 5 new virtual charter schools each year, and applications require the approval of the superintendent of public instruction.

Citations: Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.013, Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.02, Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.03

Is there a statewide authorizer specific for virtual charter schools? No. However, all virtual charter school applications must be approved by the superintendent of public instruction, and the superintendent must approve applications demonstrating experience and quality. 

Citations: Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.013

Does the state set enrollment limits for virtual charter schools? No
Is there additional oversight specific to virtual charter schools? Yes.
  • All virtual charter schools must comply with standards for online schools and programs developed by the international association for K-12 online learning (iNacol).
  • Virtual charter schools must maintain an affiliation with at least one full-time teacher licensed in Ohio.
  • Each student in a virtual charter school must be assigned to at least one teacher of record, and no teachers may be responsible for more than 125 enrolled students.
  • Each child enrolled in a virtual charter school is entitled to a computer supplied by the school, although this may be waived. The schools must install filtering software or a filtering device on each computer provided to students for instructional use. 
  • Each virtual charter school must offer a student orientation course, with guidance from the the department of education, and offer the course to enrolled students. 
  • Virtual charter schools are required to periodically communicate with each student's parent regarding the student's performance and progress and provide opportunities for parent-teacher conferences.
  • Virtual charter schools must set up a central base of operation and maintain a representative within 50 miles of that base for monitoring and assistance.
  • Virtual charter schools may provide students with a location for counseling, coaching, and testing assistance within a 50-mile radius of the student's residence.
  • Beginning with the 2018-2019 school year, a virtual virtual charter school's governing board may divide the school into two or three separate schools meeting specific requirements. The division is subject to approval from the authorizer and other requirements.

Citations: Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.013, Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.21, Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.22, Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.23, Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.29, Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.251, Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3314.271


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