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Last Upated: May 24, 2022
If you’re wondering about school choice in Minnesota, here are two things to remember. First off, you’re not alone. Every year, tens of thousands of parents in Minnesota make K-12 school decisions for their children. Secondly, you can do it! Understanding your state’s different school options can help you find a learning environment where your child is not just “getting by” at school, but actually thriving and inspired to learn.
Looking for special education options? You can learn what special education services are available in Minnesota at the Ultimate Guide to Special Education.
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Most Minnesota students attend traditional public schools. Traditional public schools are free to attend. They are open to all students, operated by school districts, and funded by taxpayers like federal, state, and local government. Did you know that Minnesota spends an average of $13,603 per public school student each year? You can search your school’s spending and that of nearby schools at Project Nickel.
Minnesota offers some open enrollment, which refers to whether a parent can choose to send their child to a public school other than their assigned district school. Parents can choose a traditional public school outside of their district based on the state’s open enrollment laws, and also may be able to choose another school within their district, depending on their local school board. In the 2020-2021 school year, about 10% of Minnesota students used open enrollment!
Since no two public schools are exactly the same, open enrollment can valuably extend a family’s educational options and help them find the best match for their child. If you are interested in this choice, note that transfer applications are usually due by mid-January for the following fall. In most transfers to schools in a different district, the receiving school district provides transportation once the student is within the district border, and can reimburse income-eligible students for their travel there.
Find out more about public schools in your state here: Minnesota’s Department of Education.
You can also consider charter schools. In Minnesota there are about 240 charter schools serving 63,000 children. The majority of charter schools are located in the greater Twin Cities metro area, but there are charters across the state.
Like traditional public schools, charter schools are public, free, and usually have no requirements for entry. What distinguishes charter schools is that they have extra freedom to innovate with learning methods and are accountable to authorizing bodies for results.
Each school has a charter which explains the school’s purpose and what specific community need it serves. For example, that could be providing a Spanish immersion program or offering a rigorous STEAM curriculum. If there are more families seeking admittance to a charter school than there are seats, a lottery system (like drawing random names out of a hat!) is usually used to determine admittance.
For instance, one charter school executive director we talked to told us about the Core Knowledge curriculum that is part of her school’s charter. “A Core Knowledge school gives kids information through oral telling, through experience, and we add on to their knowledge all the time,” described Lynn Peterson of Cologne Academy.
Learn more about Minnesota charter schools at the MN Association of Charter Schools.
Magnet schools are free public schools that allow kids to narrow in on a specific learning track, such as engineering or the performing arts. At a magnet school, all the subjects are taught through the lenses of that specific track. These might be a good option if there’s one near you with a theme that interests your child.
Minnesota has more than 75 magnet schools throughout the state. For example, some of the districts with magnet schools or programs include Anoka-Hennepin School District #11, Brooklyn Center Community Schools, Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose Schools, District 196: Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan, Independent School District 197, Minneapolis Public Schools, Northwest Suburban Integration District, and Osseo Area Schools ISD 279.
As just one example of Minnesota’s magnet school offerings, American Indian Magnet School in St. Paul provides learning rooted in American Indian culture and history.
You can also choose private school! Minnesota families can choose the unique environment of a private school, which may pass on a religious tradition, use a specific curriculum, or offer a smaller classroom environment.
While private schools do charge tuition, Minnesota parents are eligible for tax deductions on educational expenses, including private school tuition payments. Minnesota has an additional K-12 Education Credit program that families under a certain income may be eligible to apply for.
Whether your child wants to accelerate learning or needs a quieter environment, you may be interested in trying virtual school. Any student who lives in Minnesota, even if they have permanent residency elsewhere, can attend a full-time online school free of charge. For instance, students can do this through Minnesota Connections Academy, Minnesota Virtual Academy, IQ Academy of Minnesota, Minnesota Online High School, Tonka Online, Minnesota Virtual School for Success, and Blue Sky Online. K12, the online education provider that powers Minnesota Virtual Academy and IQ Academy of Minnesota, also offers Insight School of Minnesota, which specializes in helping struggling students in grades 6-12 catch up and achieve academic success.
Many Minnesota districts are also offering online schools, such as 279 Online (for students in Ossea Area schools) and Bloomington’s New Code Academy. Some of these, like Minnesota Public Schools Online, are open to students statewide. And, as of fall 2021, families with students in grades K-8 can also choose Cologne Academy Online, a public charter school with a Core Knowledge focus.
Free part-time options are available for students enrolled in public schools (including charter schools). In addition, paid part-time options are available for nonpublic school students. Learn more about full-time and part-time online learning options at the Minnesota Department of Education, which provides a complete list of online choices. In order for the funding to follow a student who switches to online school, the family must fill out a Statewide Enrollment Options form.
Minnesota Connections Academy, Minnesota Virtual School for Success, Cologne Academy Online, and IQ Academy of Minnesota have rolling enrollment policies. The deadline for Insight School of Minnesota was September 8. The deadline for Minnesota Online High School is November 8.
As of September 2021, IQ Academy Minnesota and Minnesota Virtual Academy have open seats available in grades K-12, while Insight Academy of Minnesota has open seats in grades 6-12. Minnesota Online High School has seats available in grades 9-12 and Cologne Academy Online has seats available in grades K-8.
At Minnesota Connections Academy, students in grades K-5 must provide their own computer but students in grades 6-12 are provided a computer. At Minnesota Virtual Academy, a computer and internet stipend may be available based on financial need and eligibility. Cologne Academy Online and Blue Sky Online do not provide technology and wifi. Insight School of Minnesota provides eligible students a computer and internet subsidy. Minnesota Online High School can provide a computer and internet support in cases of financial hardship.
To read more about online learning in Minnesota, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.
Homeschooling is another school option; this is a great option if you are looking for a hands-on, highly-customizable approach to your child’s education. Homeschooling is the process of parents educating students at home and is permitted in all 50 states.
In Minnesota, notice of your intent to homeschool is required by October 1 or within 15 days of withdrawing. It is required that you formally withdraw from your public school. In the case that you decide to return to public school, the school will place your student based on evaluation of their records.
The state requires homeschooling families to teach specific subjects (like reading, writing, math, and science) and also requires some level of assessment of students. Minnesota homeschoolers may still be eligible to participate in sports or activities at local public schools.
Minnesota offers some funding assistance through a tax deduction program. You may also be interested in checking out the Minnesota Homeschoolers’ Alliance, Home School Legal Defense Association – Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Education’s Homeschooling page, and Minnesota Association of Christian Home Educators.
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 Michigan. Read more about the requirements for homeschooling and get tips from HSLDA here. Note that homeschoolers may be eligible to receive limited tax exemptions from the State of Minnesota to cover costs related to instruction, field trips, and parental time. Additionally, Minnesota homeschoolers may be eligible to participate in activities at local public schools, or enroll in online classes at the Michigan Virtual School.
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 Michigan 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 several free, full-time online schools that are available to students statewide.
For additional information about school choice in Minnesota 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!
Minnesota will celebrate National School Choice Week 2022 with 390 events and activities across the state. Click the button below to learn more about school choice in Minnesota.
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