What is School Choice?
School choice means giving parents the power to select the best education environments for their children. National School Choice Week celebrates all of the K – 12 education options that parents can choose – or want to be able to choose – for their kids. These options include:
National School Choice Week does not preference one type of choice above another. Instead, we believe that parents themselves are best qualified to make decisions for their children.
What does support for school choice look like?
School choice supporters come from all walks of life and each family is looking for something different in the right education environment for their child. Because the options available to parents differ around the country, different types of choice are more or less favored in different states. On a national scale:
Traditional Public Schools:
Open enrollment policies allow parents to select the best traditional public schools for their children, regardless of where the school is located. In 11 states parents are permitted to select any school for their child, in any school district, without restrictions or limitations on the parent’s choice. 19 states offer open enrollment programs that are subject to restrictions or limitations. An additional 17 states have allowed districts and schools to decide whether to participate in open enrollment.
Dark Red: Unrestricted open enrollment in any district, without limitations
Light Red: Open enrollment options available, with some limitations or restrictions
Orange: The state has left it up to districts and schools to choose to allow open enrollment; some options may be available in your area.
Public Charter Schools
Charter schools are public schools that are allowed the freedom to be more innovative, while being held accountable for student achievement. Charter schools are always public schools, and they are not allowed to charge tuition. There are currently more than 6,900 charter schools in the U.S. serving more than 3.1 million children. As shown on this map, 44 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws allowing for the creation of public charter schools. The number of students in charter schools has more than doubled in the last ten years.
More school districts are embracing school choice options through theme-based magnet schools and magnet programs.Magnet schools are public schools that are operated by school districts or groups of school districts. Magnet schools are free to attend and have a focused theme or aligned curriculum, such as science, math, or the arts. There are more than 4,300 magnet schools across the country serving 3.5 million children. Because of high demand, three-quarters of all magnet schools use a lottery system to select their students from a pool of applicants. In addition, there are thousands of magnet programs within traditional public schools nationwide. As indicated on this map, magnet schools, theme-based schools, or magnet programs are permitted in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, however Hawaii, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming do not have any magnet schools currently operating.
Private School Choice
Private school choice programs put nonpublic schooling in the reach of more than a million families nationwide. In 2017, 30 states and the District of Columbia offer some type of private school choice initiatives. Some of these initiatives are scholarship programs, allowing parents to use state-funded opportunity scholarships, education savings accounts, or corporate-funded tuition assistance to send their children to qualifying private schools. Other states offer tax deduction programs, allowing parents to deduct all or a portion of private school tuition from their state income taxes.
22 states and Washington, D.C. offer only scholarship programs, 7 states offer both scholarship and deduction programs, and 1 state offers a only deduction program.
Online Learning and Course Access
Virtual academies instruct students through rigorous online or digital curricula. These schools are free public schools, managed by state authorities, or independent public providers such as school districts and charter schools.
Students in 34 states and the District of Columbia have the opportunity to attend full-time, statewide, tuition-free virtual academies.
In addition, 27 states permit students in nonpublic schools to participate in public online courses in addition to their brick-and-mortar schooling. 15 of these states charge something for course access and 12 offer it free to all families. This allows parents to customize the educational experiences of their children by combining online learning with homeschooling or private education. This policy is known as dual enrollment or course access.
Homeschooling is the process of parents educating children in the home, and many families choose to collaborate via tutorials, co-operatives, and extracurricular leagues to enhance the home education experience. Nearly 2 million children –or 3 percent of the American student population –are educated in the home. As shown on this map, all states permit parents to educate their children in the home.