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.
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 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. You can take advantage of this option by visiting multiple public schools near you and discovering which is the best fit for your family. Traditional public schools aren’t all the same: They 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 several hundred 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.
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, Shalisa Arnold, what one of the most common myths about charter schools is in Arizona, here’s what she shared: “I think there’s a big misconception that charter schools accept tuition. We don’t, we operate on the same funding as district schools do. We operate under the same laws and regulations that a regular district school does. A lot of parents feel like they get a private education, but for free, when they walk around our campuses.”
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. Arizona has several magnet schools scattered throughout the state. These might be a good option if your kid learns best by focusing in on a subject he or she is passionate about!
You probably know that private schools are nonpublic schools that charge tuition. But did you know that, effective in 2018, the federal government allows parents to save for K-12 private school tuition using tax-preferred 529 savings accounts? In Arizona there are also a variety of state-run scholarship programs, some of which can help families afford private school tuition.
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.
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 or Arizona Connections Academy full-time at no cost.
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. Learn more about homeschooling at Arizona Families for Home Education or Homeschool Legal Defense Association’s Arizona page.
For additional information about school choices in Arizona, visit these resources:
National School Choice Week 2021 will take place January 24 –30, 2021. We encourage all schools, homeschool groups, organizations and individuals to join the celebration. Click here for ideas, inspiration, and more information!
Arizona celebrated National School Choice Week 2020 with a record-breaking 1,196 events and activities across the state. Click the button below to learn more about school choice in Arizona.
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