Frequently Asked Questions
- What is a charter school? A charter school (also called “community schools” in Ohio) is a public school. In Ohio, new, start-up charter schools are considered their own Local Education Agencies (LEAs), and are responsible for many of the functions typically associated with school districts (e.g., data and financial reporting, food service, grant writing and reporting, compliance with the IDEA, FERPA and NCLB).
- What is a governing authority? The governing authority is a non-profit entity that governs the charter school. This governance role is the same as that of boards which govern school districts; however, charter school board members may be appointed, and aren’t required to be elected. Boards must be comprised of at least five individuals, and no individual may serve on more than two boards. All meetings of all charter school boards are open to the public.
- Do charter schools have to take any student that applies? Yes. If a school has enrollment slots available it must enroll students in accordance with the terms of its charter.
- What is a sponsor? Charter school governing authorities in Ohio are required to have contracts (also called “charters”) with a sponsor. Sponsors (also called an “authorizers”) are responsible for issuing charters, monitoring their charter schools, and taking action in the form of probation, suspension, termination, or non-renewal as necessary.
- Who can be a sponsor? In Ohio, sponsors can be non-profits, education service centers (ESCs), any of 13 state universities,and school districts.
- What is an operator? An operator is an individual or organization that is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the charter school. All new Ohio charter schools are required to have operators.
FORDHAM AS A SPONSOR
- Does Fordham sell services to the schools it sponsors? No. Fordham engages in monitoring and oversight of charter schools. We view the sale of additional services (e.g., professional development, data, etc) as an inherent conflict of interest.
- What does the sponsorship staff do? Fordham’s sponsorship staff executes its sponsorship duties by conducting site visits, reviewing compliance documents, weekly (or more) contact with personnel in school buildings regarding outstanding issues, provision of information on a slew of issues relevant to schools, including but not limited to attendance, fiscal, food service, CCIP, new school start-up, transportation, special education, funding, governance. Fordham staff also provide customized support for each school (as each school is different) in the form of specific research requests about operational or policy issues that could affect the school.
- How long as the Fordham Foundation been an authorizer? Fordham has authorized charter schools since 2005.
- How does the charter approval process work? Fordham’s charter approval process is detailed in the application guide. Contracts for sponsorship (a.k.a. “charters”) executed by Fordham and the governing board of a school must also be approved by the Ohio Department of Education.
- What is Fordham’s site visit process like? Twice yearly while classes are in session the site visit team from Fordham will conduct visits in all of its sponsored schools. Visits consist of classroom observation, records review, interviews with teachers and the school leader. Fordham staff then issues a report with findings to the school’s board. A third visit is conducted prior to the opening of school, as required under state law, to provide the Ohio Department of Education with information related to the school’s ability to open and operate for the year. Fordham staff is informally on site more often, as circumstances dictate.
- What is the term of the sponsorship contract? Fordham typically commits to charters for anywhere from one- to five-year terms. Renewal terms are the same, and may include contingencies if performance during the most recent contract term was subpar.
- How much does Fordham charge for sponsorship? Ohio law mandates that sponsors may charge up to 3 percent of the total amount of payments for operating expenses, which the school receives from the state, for oversight and monitoring.
- If a school encounters problems (e.g., academic underperformance, fiscal trouble, health/safety issues), what might happen? All situations are of course different, but mechanisms available to authorizers in Ohio include placing the school on probation, suspending operations of the school, terminating the school’s contract prior to the end of the contract term, or non-renewal. Any of these routes could result in closure of the school.
- How does Fordham report on the state of its sponsored schools? The Fordham Foundation publishes an annual report, as required by Ohio law, that covers the academic, fiscal, and governance components of each of its sponsored schools. The report is available in electronic and hardcopy formats.