New Mexico School Choice Roadmap

By: National School Choice Week Team

Last Upated: January 22, 2023

Choosing a school? You’ve got options. 

If you’re making a decision about your child’s K-12 education, you’re not alone. Thousands of New Mexico parents make school decisions each year for their children. You can do it! And, you have a variety of options available to choose from. Understanding your options can help you find a learning environment where your child is able not just to “get by” at school, but to thrive. Remember, each child is unique. So, the “best” school for your child may be different than the “best” school for your neighbor’s child. 

In New Mexico, families can choose from traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online academies, homeschooling, and learning pods.

Looking for special education options? You can learn what special education services are available in New Mexico 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.

      New Mexico Traditional Public Schools

      As you might guess, most children in New Mexico 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. Did you know that New Mexico spends an average of $11,332 per public school student each year? 

      New Mexico has restricted open enrollment. Open enrollment refers to whether parents can send their children to any public school, regardless of where it is located. New Mexico parents who live near low-performing schools may transfer their children to another school inside or outside their district. Parents in other circumstances should check with their local school district. 

      If you do have access to open enrollment, this can broaden your public school options, allowing you more choices to find the best fit for your child. If a student participating in open enrollment is choosing a different school within the same district, the district will provide transportation or reimburse parents’ costs. If the family selects a school in a different school district, parents are responsible for transportation. For a real-world example of open enrollment, check out Albuquerque Public Schools’ transfer guidelines.

      Find out more about public schools in your state at the New Mexico Public Education Department.

      New Mexico Charter Schools

      New Mexico families have another public school choice: public charter schools. These are tuition-free schools that are allowed extra freedom to innovate with curriculum and learning methods. New Mexico has more than 90 charter schools that parents can choose from; these schools serve more than 25,000 students. Each school has a charter which explains the school’s purpose and what specific community need it serves, whether that be providing a STEM program or offering a rigorous, literacy-based curriculum. 

      At New Mexico International School, for instance, the goal is for students to become bi-literate in Spanish and English and conversant in Arabic. “No one comes to New Mexico International School because they have a certain zip code or live near us,” said Head of School Todd Knouse. “Every child is here because their parents said, ‘I like the mission of that school.’ Everybody’s got to come to that prospective parent night because that’s how we give the lottery numbers out.”

      As Knouse’s comment indicates, 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. Learn more about charter school options in your state from the Public Charter Schools of New Mexico. You can also find a directory of charter schools and authorizers at the New Mexico Public Education Department.

      New Mexico Magnet Schools

      Magnet schools are a third type of free public school. Magnet schools are unique in that they allow kids to focus on specific themes. New Mexico’s magnet programs include ones that focus on STEM, the International Baccalaureate program, arts curriculum, and more. Most of New Mexico’s magnet schools are concentrated in the Albuquerque Public School District. In the Las Cruces Public School District, there are engineering, art, and multi-media magnet programs.

      New Mexico Private Schools

      New Mexico also has dozens of private schools, nonpublic schools that charge tuition, that parents can choose from. Many of these schools offer a specific religious or cultural tradition unavailable in neighborhood schools. 

      There are more than 190 private schools across the state of New Mexico. The average tuition for private schools in the state is $8,760 for elementary schools and $9,860 for high schools.

      There are no state-run scholarship options in New Mexico, but private scholarships may be available. Also, since 2018, the federal government allows parents to save for K-12 private school tuition using tax-preferred 529 savings accounts.

      Learn more at the Council for American Private Education- New Mexico Chapter, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe Catholic Schools, and Private School Review: New Mexico.

      New Mexico Online Learning

      Whether your child wants to accelerate learning or needs a quieter environment to focus in, you may be interested in virtual school. In New Mexico there are several free, full-time online learning options for students, such as New Mexico Connections Academy, Pecos Cyber AcademyeCademy K8 and eCademy High School, and New Mexico Destinations Career Academy. In addition, the New Mexico Virtual Course Consortium offers a supplemental online course program for students across the state. The state-run program charges fees to schools who enroll students. Some local districts absorb these costs, while some pass them along to families.

      There are also local district-run online and blended programs in some places, such as Rio Rancho Cyber Academy and Taos Cyber Magnet School.

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

      New Mexico Homeschooling

      New Mexico parents can choose homeschooling, which is the process of parents educating students at home. Homeschooling is a choice in all 50 states.

      If you choose homeschooling in New Mexico, you’re required to teach specific subjects (including reading, math, and science), but specific standardized tests are not required. Your child may still be eligible to participate in sports or classes at your local public school, but requirements can vary by school, so be sure to ask for more information.

      In New Mexico, it is required that you provide notice of your intent to homeschool within 30 days of starting and annually by August 1. It is recommended that you formally withdraw from your public school so your student is not marked truant. If you decide to return to public or private school, you should disenroll your student from the homeschool system through the New Mexico Public Education Department. Your student’s placement will be determined by age or their score on state achievement tests – the local school board will determine whether to accept credits.

      If you are looking for a highly customizable and flexible education for your child and think homeschooling could fit the bill, read more resources specific to New Mexico

      New Mexico 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 New Mexico. Read more about the requirements for homeschooling and get tips from HSLDA.

      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 New Mexico 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 New Mexico Parents 

      For additional information about school choices in New Mexico, visit these resources: 

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