Nebraska School Choice Roadmap

By: National School Choice Week Team

Last Upated: January 19, 2023

Choosing a school? You’ve got options. 

Each spring, parents face one of the biggest decisions they can make for their child’s future: What school environment will their child spend about 1,000 hours in next year? 

Making that decision with confidence starts with knowing what options you have; you may have more school choices than you realize! Understanding these options can help you find a school where your child grows and learns to the best of their ability. Nebraska families can choose from traditional public schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online schools, homeschooling. and learning pods.

Looking for special education options? You can learn what special education services are available in Nebraska at the Ultimate Guide to Special Education.

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Traditional public schools do not charge tuition. They are managed by school districts and do not require students to pass tests to enroll.
Public charter schools do not charge tuition. They are usually managed by nonprofit organizations and do not require students to pass tests to enroll.
Public magnet schools do not charge tuition. They are managed by school districts and focus on themes, such as math, science, technology, and the arts.
Private schools charge tuition, but scholarships are often available via state programs or by individual schools. Private schools are privately managed and can be faith-based or secular.

      Nebraska Traditional Public Schools

      Most children in Nebraska 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. Each year, Nebraska spends an average of $12,939 per public school student. You can search your school’s spending and that of nearby schools at Project Nickel.

      Nebraska has flexible open enrollment for public schools. What this means is that you are likely able to send your child to any public school of choice in Nebraska, regardless of where you live or where the school is located. You can take advantage of this option by visiting multiple public schools near you and discovering which is the best fit for your family. You can also read the Nebraska Department of Education’s answers to frequently asked questions about switching school districts in your state.

      When a student uses open enrollment in Nebraska, transportation is typically the responsibility of the parents or provided by the receiving district for a fee, unless the student is eligible for free or reduced price lunch, part of a diversity focus program, or a student with learning disabilities, in which case transportation is typically free.

      Find out more about public schools in your state at the Nebraska Department of Education.

      Nebraska Charter Schools

      Nebraska currently does not have any public charter schools, but charters may be in Nebraska’s future! Charter schools are tuition-free public schools that are allowed extra freedom to innovate while being held accountable for student achievement. Nebraska is one of only five states that has not passed laws allowing for the creation of public charter schools. 

      Nebraska Magnet 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. Nebraska has a handful of magnet schools scattered throughout the state, and these might be a good option if your child learns best by focusing in on a subject they are passionate about. For instance, Omaha Public Schools has both elementary school magnet programs (like Conestoga Elementary School) and high school magnet programs (like Benson Magnet High School).  

      Nebraska Private Schools

      Families in Nebraska can also consider private schools, nonpublic schools that charge tuition. Private schools may offer a unique curriculum, smaller class sizes, or a faith-based tradition. Nebraska’s more than 220 private schools come in all shapes and forms, from religious schools to schools designed for children with special needs. 

      The average tuition for private schools in the state is $3,633 for elementary schools and $7,856 for high schools. Unfortunately, there are no state-run scholarship options in Nebraska at present, but private scholarships may be available. The federal government does allow parents in all 50 states to save for K-12 private school tuition using tax-preferred 529 savings accounts.

      Learn more at Children’s Scholarship Fund-Omaha and Private School Review: Nebraska.

      Nebraska Online Learning

      Whether your child wants to accelerate his or her learning or needs a quieter environment in which to focus, you may be interested in giving virtual school a try. 

      While the majority of states have free, public online programs available to families statewide, Nebraska does not currently have that option. Families can choose a paid option: University of Nebraska High School Online. Other paid options, like George Washington University Online High SchoolThe Keystone School, Excel High School, and K12 Private Academy, are available to Nebraska families but are not state-specific. Families interested in enrolling at University of Nebraska High School Online can do so at any point during the year; there is no deadline for enrollment. The school does not supply families with technology or wifi. 

      Additionally, some districts are developing their own online programs for students. Lincoln Consolidated Schools students can choose the fully online LCS Virtual Academy. Omaha Public Schools offers local students Omaha Virtual School, a blended learning program that incorporates both in-person sessions and at-home online classes. 

      To read more about online learning in Nebraska, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

      Nebraska Homeschooling

      Nebraska families can also choose to homeschool their children, which allows for a highly customizable and personalized learning experience. Homeschooling is the process of parents educating students at home and is permitted in all 50 states.

      In Nebraska, the state requires notice of your intent to homeschool by July 15 or promptly upon choosing to homeschool. The state also requires an annual information survey and parent representative form. It is recommended that you formally withdraw from your public school so your student is not marked truant.

      If you choose homeschooling, you’re required to teach specific subjects (including language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, and health), but specific standardized tests are not required. If you choose to enroll your child part-time at the local public school, your child may be eligible to participate in sports and other activities.

      In the case that you decide to return to public school during the school year, you must notify the Nebraska Department of Education in writing.

      To learn more, check out a roundup of homeschooling resources specific to Nebraska

      Nebraska Learning Pods

      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.

      Self-Directed 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 Nebraska. Read more about the requirements for homeschooling and get tips from HSLDA

      In Nebraska, homeschooled families who come together to learn, such as in a microschool, are classified by the Nebraska Department of Education as a “multi-family unit.” There are at least 35 multi-family units registered for the 2022-23 school year in the state.

      If your learning pod contains more than two families and will have parents or other teachers leading unique classes just for your school, it may qualify as a private school. You can read more about what Nebraska classifies as a private school, how they’re regulated, and how to start one.

      Learning Support Pods:

      If your child is enrolled in an existing online school or local public, charter, or private school, and uses that school’s curriculum under the supervision of an adult in a learning pod, you do not need to register as a homeschool or private school. 

      Education Resources for Nebraska Parents 

      For additional information about school choices in Nebraska visit these resources: 

      Nebraska celebrates school choice


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