education options

education options2018-02-24T20:57:07-06:00

In Illinois, you have more options than you may think…

Brick & Mortar Public Schools

Compulsory Attendance

Your child’s age is your first indicator of his or her eligibility for beginning school. Students may start kindergarten if they turn five on or before September 1. A child does not have to enroll in school at age five, but must enroll in First grade on or before September 1 of the next year.  see more >

Required Documentation

Illinois school districts set the requirements for what documentation is required prior to enrolling a student in their district. To get that information, contact the district directly.

Some legal documents are required for Illinois students to attend school:

  • Certified Birth Certificate/proof of identity
  • Official copy of records/transcripts from the previous school the child most recently attended
  • A shot immunization record (or proof that immunization is not required for the child)
    • Click here to view the immunization requirements 
  • Proof of home address (for example, a rental agreement or tax statement)

School Fees

Paying some fees is a part of public education, though it is primarily a free education. Students are expected to supply their own basic school supplies such as paper, pencils, and notebooks. Each district has a list of approved expenditures for students. Fee waiver forms can be requested from the school if there is a situation that prevents a family from being able to pay for required materials or events.

Some typical items on that list include:

  • Lunch
  • Summer school
  • Student parking passes (high school)
  • Lost textbooks
  • Late or lost library books
  • Field trips
  • Special class-required fees (e.g., science lab fees)

Public Charter Schools

What are Charter Schools?

Charter Schools are tuition-free public schools operated by independent, non-profit governing bodies.

Parents, teachers, and community leaders sign a “charter” or contract with a school district or state agency to create a charter school and give students more educational options than their assigned school. Charter schools have flexibility over classroom hours, curriculum, and employment policies, but are subject to periodic reviews based on student performance. In Illinois, public charter school students are measured against the same academic standards as students in other public schools. Local boards of education monitor the academic and financial performance of charter schools, and, can revoke  or refuse to renew a school’s charter.

Illinois Charter Schools

A list of the active charter schools can be found at the Illinois Department of Education.

Frequently Asked Questions

You can find more information on Charter Schools at Illinois Department of Education.


Most charter schools do not have attendance zones. If you are interested in applying for your child, you must apply directly to the school. The application and selection process can be quite complicated. Make sure to contact the school early to determine the correct next steps to applying.

Virtual Public Schools

In Illinois, children attend school online in virtual classrooms with state certified teachers. Some virtual programs are open to in-district students only, while others have enrollment open to students across the state.

There are several online and blended options at the district level. A consortium of school districts in the Chicago area currently offer online courses. Online offerings from district schools typically cater to those who have dropped out of high school; those students often must meet in a physical classroom once a week while completing the majority of their work online.

Chicago Virtual Charter School

phone: (866) 612-1451
grades: K–12

Illinois Virtual School

phone: (309) 676-1000
grades: 5–12

Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired

phone: (800) 323-4238
ages: 14+

Private Schools

What makes a school “private”?

Private schools charge tuition, and many have a religious mission. Some private schools offer families assistance to make tuition payments. Click below for the complete list of over 1,200 private schools across the state.

Private School Review offers free, detailed information on U.S. private schools combined with useful community data (e.g., housing costs) and maps of the surrounding areas.

*Information on non-public school admission requirements should be obtained from the school directly.

Educational Choice Programs

Illinois’ Tax Credits for Educational Expenses program was enacted in 1999 and launched in 2000 to help families afford the public, private or home school options that fit their children’s needs. Learn more about the program’s details on this page, including eligibility, funding, regulations, legal history and more.

For more information on policy change or to get involved in the school choice movement in Illinois visit EdChoice.

Private Virtual Schools

George Washington University Online High School is an online college preparatory academy for motivated students who are willing to be challenged to become the best students and persons they can be. Combining award-winning curriculum with small class sizes and intensive college counseling, students receive a flexible, individualized education attuned to their own needs and goals.

International Academy is a K12, Inc accredited, online private school for grades K–12. Students earn a U.S. high school diploma while using award-winning K¹² curriculum

They offer extensive, individualized academic and counseling support keep students on track. The flexibility allows students to explore their passions. Full-time and part-time options are available.

International Connections Academy is a fully-accredited, online, college preparatory private school serving K-12 students worldwide. The program combines a top-rated curriculum with talented teachers, cutting-edge technology, the flexibility to learn at home, and direct family involvement to ensure each student realizes his or her full potential.

The Keystone School offers flexible education programs for high school and middle school students. Whether your student wants to study full-time or just needs individual classes, they offer more than 170 courses from credit recovery to world languages and AP. Students can enroll at any time.

Home Education

Your options

In Illinois parents have the option to educate their children at home, an option known as homeschooling or home education. Parents in Illinois may choose to homeschool their own children in grades K–12. In Illinois, your homeschool will be treated as a private school. You do not have to register your home-based private school with the Illinois State Board of Education, nor are you required to obtain state recognition of your home-based private school. In fact, you cannot get your private school registered or recognized—the law does not allow it.

To homeschool as a private school, you’ll need to follow these guidelines:

  1. Teach the required subjects. Your student must learn the following subjects:
    • Language arts
    • Math
    • Biological and physical sciences
    • Social sciences
    • Fine arts
    • Physical development and health
  2. Instruction must be in English.
  3. Know what to call your program.
Home School Legal Defense Alliance

visit the HSLDA website >

Coalition for Responsible Home Education

visit the coalition’s website >

Support Groups

Illinois has many homeschool associations that offer classes, curriculum, advising, sports, clubs, socials and recreation. Check out your local support groups here.

Dual Enrollment

College Credit

Dual enrollment courses are college credit courses. High school students enroll in college courses and earn postsecondary credit upon successful completion of the course. High school credit can also be awarded based on local school policy. Dual enrollment courses can be taught on the college campus, at the student’s high school, or online. The location of the course does not affect its status as a dual enrollment course. Home school students are also eligible for dual enrollment.

Illinois also permits districts to enter into joint agreements with community college districts and other school districts to provide career education or advanced vocational training of 11th and 12th-grade students.

Course Fees

In some districts, the tuition is completely waived, others offer discounted tuition, and some charge full tuition. This is often related to where the dual credit is delivered (at the high school versus on campus) and who is delivering it (community college faculty versus high school faculty).

For advanced vocational training programs: Participating community college bill each participating school district for the per capita cost of operating the community college attended, or a charge for participation may be made in accordance with the joint agreement between the community college district and the student’s school district. Such agreement may not provide for payments in excess of actual operating costs. Participating high schools may use state aid monies to pay the charges.

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