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Last Upated: May 24, 2022
If you live in Arizona, you have access to more K-12 education options than you might realize. Navigating these options can help you find a school where your child thrives, but it can also feel overwhelming. This guide will breakdown the six types of schools available in Arizona, as well as provide additional education resources.
Looking for special education options? You can learn what special education services are available in Arizona at the Ultimate Guide to Special Education.
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Most children in Arizona (and in America) attend traditional public schools. Traditional public schools are free to attend, open to all students, operated by school districts, and funded by taxpayers like you. Arizona spends an average of $8,785 per public school pupil each year. You can search your school’s spending and that of nearby schools at Project Nickel.
Arizona has unrestricted open enrollment for public school. What this means is that you can send your child to any public school in Arizona, regardless of where you live or where the school is located. Each district’s open enrollment policies must be available in English and Spanish, and must include transportation provisions. These include transportation up to 20 miles each way for students with a disability or IEP, and can include other students, too. For example, you can read about the open enrollment process in the Scottsdale Unified School District.
You can take advantage of open enrollment by visiting multiple public schools near you and discovering which is the best fit for your family. Traditional public schools may differ in learning methods and one may just “feel different” than another to you.
For example, one traditional public school in Arizona we talked to, Coyote Springs Elementary School, has a unique focus on “authenticity in learning.” Pamela Clark, the school’s instructional specialist, shared one of the school’s cool practices for the beginning of the school year. It’s called “two for ten.” She said, “We want everyone on campus to spend ten minutes with a child for a couple of weeks just getting to know them, talking about things other than school, and every person on campus participates, including teachers, custodians, the cafeteria staff.”
Charter schools are tuition-free public schools that have extra freedom to innovate with curriculum and learning methods. Arizona has more than 500 charter schools that parents can choose from. Each school has a charter which explains the school’s purpose and what specific community need it serves. That could be providing a Spanish immersion program or offering a rigorous, literacy-based curriculum. If there are more families seeking admittance to a charter school than there are seats, a lottery system is usually used to determine admittance.
For more information on charter schools in your state, check out the Arizona Charter Schools Association. Families in the metro-Phoenix area may also be interested in Raising Arizona Kids’ annual guide to all nearby charters.
We recently interviewed one of Arizona’s very first charter schools, Benjamin Franklin Charter School. When we asked the charter school’s Director of Education, Diana Dana, what one of the most common myths about charter schools is in Arizona, here’s what she shared: “There’s a big misconception that charter schools have strict boundaries as many neighborhood schools do. Because we are not restricted by boundaries, we are able to welcome any family that is looking for something more than what their neighborhood school offers in a caring, wholesome environment. Many parents choose to be a part of something special with us because we provide an ‘A’ rated education and family-friendly amenities such as affordable before- and after- school childcare and free school supplies. We take pride in removing barriers to an excellent, tuition-free education.”
You can also choose magnet schools. These free public schools allow kids to narrow in on a specific learning track, such as health sciences or the performing arts. At a magnet school, all subjects are taught through the lenses of that specific track. These might be a good option if your kid learns best by focusing in on a subject he or she is passionate about!
There are many magnet school options in Arizona. For instance, the Tucson Unified School District in Arizona currently lists twelve magnet schools. These include schools that focus on communication arts, dual language, Montessori, and gifted study. Meanwhile, in Goodyear, Centerra Mirage STEM Academy is a magnet school focusing on hands-on STEM learning and enrichment.
You probably know that private schools are nonpublic schools that charge tuition. But did you know that, since 2018, the federal government allows parents to save for K-12 private school tuition using tax-preferred 529 savings accounts?
There are about 450 private schools across the state of Arizona. These private schools come in all shapes and forms, from religious schools to schools designed for children with special needs. Arizona’s Gateway Academy, for example, a private school located in Scottsdale, is providing an an inspiring education for students with autism spectrum disorders. The average tuition for private schools in the state is $9,756 for elementary schools and $15,165 for high schools.
In Arizona there are currently five state-run scholarship programs, which can help families afford private school tuition. One of these is the nation’s very first tax-credit scholarship program, enacted in 1997. All K-12 students interested in choosing private school are eligible to apply for aid. Arizona launched another individual income tax-credit scholarship program in 2012. Arizona also offers a tax-credit scholarship program focusing on scholarships for low-income children. Fourth, “Lexie’s Law” provides tax-credit scholarships for students with special needs. Finally, Arizona enacted an Empowerment Scholarship Accounts program. To be eligible, students must have attended public school for at least 45 days of the prior fiscal year and met other requirements.
Whether your child wants to accelerate learning or needs a quieter environment, you may be interested in trying virtual school. Arizona students can attend Arizona Virtual Academy, Arizona Connections Academy, Primavera Online School, Sequoia Choice Arizona Distance Learning, or ASU Prep Digital full-time at no cost. Students in grades 7-12 can also consider Insight Academy of Arizona or Hope High School Online, both of which specialize in helping struggling students succeed. Students in grades K-8 can also consider Leman Virtual Academy.
In order for funding to transfer to one of these schools, families switching to an online school may need to initiate withdrawal from their previous school. You can learn more about the online school community in your state at AZ Parents for Education.
There are also many districts in Arizona currently offering full-time online learning. The State Board of Education makes a list of district online programs and the grades they serve available to families.
Leman Virtual Academy and Hope High School Online enroll year round. Arizona Connections Academy offers rolling enrollment, but enrollment will be paused from October 4-18, 2021. ASU Prep Digital offers rolling enrollment, but October 3 is the deadline for taking concurrent college courses. At Primavera Online School, students in grades 11-12 can still apply for six week courses available this fall. For other grades, the application for the second semester is December 17.
As of September 2021, Arizona Virtual Academy, ASU Prep Digital, and Primavera Online School have seats available in grades K-12. Insight Academy of Arizona and Hope High School Online has seats available in grades 7-12 and Leman Virtual Academy have seats available in grades K-8. At Arizona Connections Academy, grades K-5 are capped, but seats are still available in grades 6-11.
At Arizona Connections Academy, a family may opt into one laptop and internet subsidy per household. At Arizona Virtual Academy, a family can receive a computer if they qualify for free or reduced lunch or are special education. A wifi stipend may be available at the end of the school year. At Insight Academy of Arizona, a loaner computer is available to qualified families. Primavera Online School, Hope High School, ASU Prep, and Leman Virtual Academy do not provide computers and wifi.
To read more about online learning in Arizona, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.
Homeschooling is another school option in all 50 states. Homeschooling is the process of parents educating students at home and allows for highly customizable education.
In Arizona, the state requires a one-time notice of your intent to homeschool your child within 30 days of beginning to homeschool in a county. It is also recommended that you formally withdraw from your current school so that your student is not marked truant.
If you choose to homeschool, you are required to teach reading, grammar, math, social studies, and science, but specific standardized tests are not required. Note that your student might still be eligible to participate in sports or classes at your local public school.
If you move to a new county during the school year, you must file a letter of termination, then submit a new notice of your intent to homeschool in the county you moved to. In the case that you want to switch back to public school, you must file a letter of termination.
Arizona has a funding assistance program called the Empowerment Scholarship Accounts to help make homeschooling more affordable for families. Learn more about homeschooling at Arizona Families for Home Education or Homeschool Legal Defense Association’s Arizona page.
Micro-schools, pods, pandemic pods, and learning pods all refer to the same concept: students gathering together in a small group – with adult supervision – to learn, explore, and socialize. Pods themselves can take a variety of legal forms, but in general they can be separated into two categories: self-directed pod (homeschool, homeschool collaborative, or micro-school) and learning support pod. It’s important to understand what kind of pod you are signing up for and the requirements that go along with it. Learn more about learning pods.
If your learning pod or micro-school is choosing its own curriculum and each family is directing their own children’s schooling, it likely qualifies as a homeschool in Arizona. Read more about the requirements for homeschooling and get tips from HSLDA here. Note that homeschooled students in Arizona may still be eligible to participate in sports, activities, or classes at local public schools.
If your learning pod contains more than two families and will have teachers leading unique classes just for your school, it may qualify as a private school. You can read more about what Arizona classifies as a private school, how they’re regulated, and how to start one.
If your child is going to be enrolled in remote learning through your local public school and supervised by an adult in your learning pod, you do not need to register as a homeschool or private school. Keep in mind that you have multiple online learning options, including two permanent, full-time online schools that are available to K-12 students statewide.
KaiPod Learning offers learning pods for homeschoolers and students enrolled in accredited virtual schools, and is expanding its locations in Arizona for the 2022-2023 school year.
Great Hearts Online, a classical virtual academy, is piloting classical learning microschools in Arizona and Texas for the 2021-2022 school year. Prenda Microschools are another example of microschoooling in Arizona.
For additional information about school choices in Arizona, visit these resources:
National School Choice Week 2022 will take place January 23 – 29, 2022. We encourage all schools, homeschool groups, organizations and individuals to join the celebration. Check out ideas, inspiration, and more information!
Arizona will celebrate National School Choice Week 2022 with 735 events and activities across the state. Click the button below to learn more about school choice in Arizona.
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