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 School

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 School

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. 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 School

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 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 schools may seem alike, but there are some key differences. While both are web-based, virtual private schools operate similarly to traditional private schools in that they charge tuition, have admission criteria, and are not bound by state regulations. In contrast, virtual public schools are fully funded by the government and must follow state mandates. Virtual private schools are only available in select states, but their private status allows any eligible student to enroll regardless of their residence. Financial, academic, or other requirements may apply.

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 offers a one-of-a-kind educational opportunity that provides students with the best of both worlds. With this approach, students can spend a few days learning in a traditional classroom setting, and the rest of the week studying from home. The beauty of blended learning lies in its flexibility, as parents can tailor the educational “blend” to suit their child’s unique learning style and needs.

For blended learning options in your state look here!

Home Education

Home education, also known as homeschooling, offers the greatest flexibility among school choice options. With this option, parents educate their children at home using a curriculum of their choice. Homeschooling laws vary by state, with some states imposing more regulations that require parents to work within an umbrella program. In contrast, other states have more relaxed laws and regulations that provide parents greater autonomy in their homeschooling approach.

We’ve researched each state’s home school regulations – find them here!

Dual Enrollment

Dual enrollment is a program designed for high school students who desire to earn college credits before pursuing higher education. While students enrolled in traditional or virtual brick and mortar public and private schools may have their college tuition covered, families of home-schooled students are responsible for any costs associated with attending college courses.

Find more information about dual enrollment options in your state here!