Guide to School Choice in Alaska

By: National School Choice Week Team

Choosing a school? You’ve got options. 

If you live in Alaska and are making a decision about K-12 education for your child, this post is for you. Where you send your child to school is one of the most impactful decisions you can make, but you’re not alone in it. Thousands of Alaska parents make school choices each year. And remember, each child is unique. So, the “best” school for your child may look different than the “best” school for your neighbor’s child. 

Finding a great school for your family starts with knowing your options.  This guide will breakdown the six types of schools available to you in Alaska, and provide some extra resources. In short, you can choose from traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online academies, and homeschooling.

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Alaska Traditional Public Schools

By far, most families in Alaska and around the country choose traditional public school. Traditional public schools are free to attend, open to all students, operated by school districts, and funded by federal, state, and local government. Did you know that Alaska spends an average of $17,872 per pupil in public school

Alaska has limited open enrollment laws for public schools. What this means is that parents of students who are assigned to a particular neighborhood school may in some cases be able to transfer their children to another school in their district. In other cases, children may be required to attend the school assigned to them by their district. Open enrollment is an important way that parents have access to a broader variety of public schools; if you would like to participate in open enrollment, contact your school district to learn more. 

Alaska Charter Schools

Depending on where you live in Alaska, public charter schools may be another public school option available to you. 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 entities for results. 

Alaska passed charter school legislation in 1995 and currently has 29 charter schools that serve approximately 6,600 students. Each school has a charter which explains the school’s purpose and what specific community need it serves. For example, that might 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 good old-fashioned lottery system is typically used to determine admittance. 

Alaska Magnet Schools

A third free, public school option is found in Alaska’s magnet schools. Magnet schools allow kids to narrow in on a specific learning track, such as engineering or the performing arts; magnet schools teach all subjects through the lenses of that specific track. Alaska has a handful of magnet schools scattered throughout the state, and these might be a good option if there is one near you and your kid learns best by focusing in on a subject they are passionate about. 

Alaska Private Schools

Families in Alaska 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. Alaska’s private schools come in all shapes and forms, from religious schools to schools designed for children with special needs. Unfortunately, there are no state-run scholarship options in Alaska at present, but private scholarships may be available. Also, effective in 2018, the federal government allows parents to save for K-12 private school tuition using tax-preferred 529 savings accounts.

Alaska Online Learning

Whether your child wants to accelerate learning or needs a quieter environment in which to focus, you may be interested in giving virtual school a try. Of course, virtual school is different and may feel like “drinking from a fire hose” at first, but for many families it becomes the perfect fit. Middle- and high-school students in certain Alaska districts can enroll in online courses through the Alaska Digital Academy for a fee.

Alaska Homeschooling

Alaska parents can also choose homeschooling, which sets a high bar for flexibility and customization for education. Homeschooling is the process of parents educating students at home and is an option in all 50 states. Check here for resources about homeschooling specific to Alaska. 

Education Resources for Alaska Parents

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

School Choice Celebrations in Alaska 

National School Choice Week 2020 will take place January 26 – February 1, 2020. We encourage all parents and schools to sign up for a free box of NSCW supplies for our 2020 celebrations. Click here for more information.

Alaska celebrated National School Choice Week 2019 with 59 events and activities across the state. Additionally, Governor Mike Dunleavy issued an official proclamation recognizing January 20-26, 2019 as Alaska School Choice Week.

 

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