What is a Public Charter School?

Charter schools were developed according to three basic values: opportunity, choice, and responsibility for results. In 1991 Minnesota passed the first public charter school law, with California following suit in 1992. By 1995, 19 states had signed laws allowing for the creation of charter schools, and by 2003 that number increased to 40 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. Charter schools are one of the fastest growing innovations in education policy, enjoying broad bipartisan support from governors, state legislators, and past and present secretaries of education. In his 1997 State of the Union Address, former President Clinton called for the creation of 3,000 charter schools by the year 2002. In 2002, President Bush called for $200 million to support charter schools. His proposed budget called for another $100 million for a new Credit Enhancement for Charter Schools Facilities Program. Since 1994, the U.S. Department of Education has provided grants to support states’ charter school efforts, starting with $6 million in fiscal year 1995.

Ohio passed charter school legislation in 1997 calling these public schools -- Community Schools -- are part of the state’s system of public education, offering an education that is equivalent to that of Ohio’s traditional public schools approved by the state department of education. Community schools are public nonprofit, nonsectarian schools that operate independently of any school district but under a contract with an authorized sponsoring entity that is established by statute or approved by the Ohio Department of Education. Community Schools are public schools of choice and are state and federally funded.

There are three types of community schools: new start-ups, district-sponsored conversion community schools and ESC-sponsored conversion community schools. New start-up community schools are limited in their location to what are referred to as “challenged school districts”. These districts include the eight largest urban school districts, as well as districts in academic emergency, academic watch, and districts in the original pilot project area, Lucas County. Conversion community schools are created when a traditional school district converts all or part of an existing public school. Conversion community schools may be opened by any school district in the state. Conversion community schools operate independently of the sponsoring district and are considered their own district for many purposes. ESC conversion community schools are created when an ESC converts all or part of a building that it owns or operates into a community school. ESC-sponsored conversion community schools may be opened in any district in the state in which the ESC owns or operates a facility.