About School Choice
School Choice, what is it?
We firmly believe that a quality education should not be determined by your zip code but by you, the parent, according to the needs of your child. Each child is unique with very different learning styles and needs. As school choice expands, there are a growing number of ways in which families can choose the best educational setting for their child.
Every state participates in school choice in some form or fashion. From homeschooling to virtual school to brick and mortar schools, each state has some form of school choice.
What are the choices?
Public schools are the neighborhood brick and mortar (b&m) schools established by the local school districts. The local school board establishes a school’s zoning, decides the curricula and funds teacher employment. The state board of education decides the method of educational testing and the state’s educational standards.
This choice is free and available to students at their respectively zoned school.
Public Schools are funded by three different levels of government: the U.S. Department of Education, the state department of education and the local school district.
Find your state’s public schools here>
Charter Schools are tuition-free b&m public schools operated by an independent governing body. These schools can be started by parents, teachers, community leaders, for-profit companies or non-profit organizations. The independent party wishing to start a school must sign a “charter” or contract with a school district to establish a charter school.
Charter schools differ from traditional b&m schools, because they have flexibility over classroom hours, curriculum, and employment policies and are not beholden to the same regulations as traditional b&m schools. However, the local school board monitors the academic and financial performance of charter schools and can revoke or refuse to renew a school’s charter.
Charter schools are free and open to any student, even if it is “outside their district.” Charter schools accept students by public lottery instead of on a first come first basis. We’ve explained the charter school lottery process on our blog – check it out!
Find out more about your state’s charter schools here>
Virtual Public School
Public virtual schools may contract with private vendors to receive curriculum and management services, but they are governed by public entities such as public school districts, charter school boards or state education agencies.
Public virtual schools must have state-certified public school teachers; comply with state testing; have attendance policies and academic progress requirements – such as grades, transcripts, report cards and parent conferences; a school office for staff; an established curriculum as determined by the school – families cannot pick and choose or eliminate subjects; strong school administrators (e.g., principal, assistant principal, special education director, IT); policies and procedures by way of discipline and due process.
Students may do their work at home but virtual public school students are not considered “home schooled”. They must adhere to the same education standards set by the state, but have the flexibility of working at their own pace.
Check out your state’s virtual public school options!
Magnet schools are also public b&m schools, but they focus on individually themed curricula.
Typical magnet schools:
- Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)
- Fine and Performing Arts
- International Baccalaureate, International Studies
- Career and Technical Education (CTE)
- World Languages (immersion and non-immersion)
Similar to a charter school they are open to all students and students are chosen based on a lottery system. Unlike a charter school they cannot be run by a for-profit entity and they must adhere to state standards.
Learn more about magnet schools in your state!
Click the PDF below to learn the difference between a Charter and Magnet school ↓
Private schools, like public schools, are traditionally in brick and mortar buildings. Unlike traditional public schools, private schools charge tuition, are not funded and operated by the government, and they are not required to follow the same state standards and regulations.
The catch is, private schools can pick and choose who attends their school. A student may attend a private school despite not living in the same zip code as that school. However, he or she must meet the financial and academic requirements for admission.
Every state has private schools! Find yours and how to navigate them here >
Virtual Private School
Virtual private schools and virtual public are virtually (see what we did there!) the same thing. Virtual private schools are web based, but, like traditional private schools, charge tuition, have a say on who attends their school, are not required to follow the state mandated regulations and are not funded by the government.
Only certain states have virtual private schools. The amazing part is, since it’s private, any student can attend he or she only has to meet the financial, academic or any other requirements for entry!
Click your state to find out what virtual private options are available to you!
Education Savings Account/Tax-Credit Scholarships/Vouchers
Education Savings Accounts, also known as ESAs, allow parents to move their children from the traditional public school to a private school or education option of their choice. Families participating in ESAs have funds deposited into a government-authorized savings account. Access to which is normally given to the families via debit card.
Below are some things the funds can be spent on:
- Covering private school tuition and fees,
- Online learning programs,
- Private tutoring,
- Community college costs,
- Higher education expenses
- Other approved customized learning services and material
Some ESAs, but not all, even allow students to use their funds to pay for a combination of public school courses and private services.
Tax-Credit Scholarships allow eligible taxpayers – individuals and businesses – to receive full or partial tax credits when they donate to nonprofits that provide private school scholarships. Some states have scholarship-giving nonprofits that might also provide innovation grants to public schools and/or provide transportation assistance to students choosing to attend another public schools.
Vouchers allow parents the opportunity to choose a private school for their students. Parents can either use all or part of the public funding set aside for their student’s education. With vouchers, public funds that are typically allocated to a student are given to participating families in the form of a voucher. The voucher can be used to pay partial or full tuition for their child’s private school, including both religious and non-religious options.
Not every state has ESAs, tax-credit scholarships and vouchers, and they can be tricky to understand!
See if your state has one of these options and figure out how to navigate them here>
Blended Learning School
Blended learning is a truly unique educational option! Students who participate in this option spend a couple days a week learning in a brick & mortar setting and a few days studying/learning from home. Blended learning can be any combination of learning styles. The combination is up for parents to decide which options to blend together, all based on their students learning needs.
For blended learning options in your state look here>
Home education, a.k.a. home schooling, is probably the most flexible option of any of the school choice options. Parents teach their students from home using any curriculum they would like to teach their children. Each state has a set of laws for homeschooling. Some states are more regulated and may require parents to operate under some sort of umbrella program. While other states are more relaxed with their laws and regulations.
We’ve researched each state’s home school regulations – find them here!
Dual enrollment is for high school students wishing to receive college credit before seeking higher education. Students, in traditional/virtual brick and mortar public and private schools, might have the cost of the college classes covered by the school they attend. However, if a student is home schooled the family is responsible for any tuition or fees required to attend.
Find more information about dual enrollment options in your state here>