What is a Charter School?

stack of books with apple on top in front of blackboard

Charter Schools:

  • Are public schools
  • Are nonsectarian (non-religious)
  • Are nonprofit
  • Are tuition-free
  • Serve all student populations
  • Have more flexibility and greater accountability

In 1997, Ohio’s Charter Law passed to increase innovation, provide public educational options in the Urban 8 districts in the state and offer families choice and quality outside of neighborhood boundaries. Charter schools by law are publicly funded, tuition free schools that provide unique educational opportunities for students. In Ohio, charter schools include special focus schools for drop-out recovery, STEM education, experiential learning, arts immersion, college preparatory and special education needs such as autism.


OAPCS has compiled answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding charter schools.

Are charters public schools? 

Yes, charter schools are public schools that are tuition-free, nonsectarian, and open to all students who wish to attend. Charter schools permit parents, teachers and organizations to restore, reinvent, and innovate within classrooms. Choice is a key component of charter schools and families seeking educational equity, quality, stability and accountability.

Where are charter schools in Ohio?

Charter schools in Ohio are located primarily in the Urban 8 Districts: Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown. For more details about schools and their locations, go to the Find a School section here. 

How can I apply for a charter school?

Charter schools are open to all students and are committed to a quality education for those who enroll. By law, charter schools cannot have admission processes that unlawfully discriminate against students; anyone can apply. If more students want to attend a specific school than there are seats available, there is a lottery to determine who is admitted. Many schools have waiting lists and may admit students from the waitlist as seats become available.

What types of educational programs do charters offer?

Every charter school is allowed the freedom to create its own educational methodology. Charter school models in Ohio include college preparatory programs, STEM education, performing arts immersion, experiential learning, and programs for special education populations such as autism. Charter schools can be located in traditional school facilities and converted facilities in which students physically attend classes. Some charter schools operate as virtual programs through online curriculums. When enrolled in an online school, students receive internet access, computers for use at home, and appropriate grade-level instruction from licensed Ohio teachers.  

Are charters limited to certain grade levels?

Charter schools can be organized to provide programs for all levels of education, from kindergarten through high school. Some schools are limited to K-8, while others are high schools.  Some schools are focused only on the lower elementary levels of K-5.

How is oversight provided to charter schools in Ohio?

Charter schools must operate within the provisions of state and federal law. They must follow all health, safety and civil rights laws. In Ohio, the Ohio Department of Education’s Office of Community Schools provides technical assistance to developers and authorizers of charter schools, approves organizations seeking to become authorizers of new start-up charter schools and oversees all authorizers. Charter Schools are subject to Ohio’s public transparency, open meetings and ethics laws.

How can I gather information about a charter school’s performance and rankings?

The Ohio Department of Education provides accountability standards and measurements for all charter schools and all charter schools are required to administer the same state assessments as traditional public schools. All academic performance rankings are compiled by the State Department of Education and published through the Ohio School Report Cards, which can be accessed on the ODE website here.