Guide to School Choice in Colorado

By: National School Choice Week Team

Choosing a school? You’ve got options. 

First off, if you’re making a K-12 education decision for your child, you’re not alone. Tens of thousands of Colorado parents are making similar decisions each year. Secondly, you can do it! In Colorado, you have access to more K-12 education options than you might realize. Knowing and navigating these options can help you find a great school. And remember, every child is different. So, the best school for your neighbor’s child may be different than the best school for your child.

This post will breakdown the six types of schools available to you in Colorado, as well as provide additional education resources to help you find the best learning environment for your child. In short, Colorado families can choose from traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online academies, and homeschooling.

Colorado celebrates School Choice Week

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Colorado Traditional Public Schools

Most children in Colorado (and in America) attend traditional public schools. Traditional public schools are free to attend, open to all students, and operated by school districts. Public schools are funded by federal, state, and local government. Did you know that Colorado spends, on average, $10, 053 per public school student each year? 

Colorado has unrestricted open enrollment for public schools. What this means is that you may be able to send your child to any public school in Colorado, regardless of where you live or where the school is located. You can take advantage of this important 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. 

Colorado Charter Schools

Another widespread public school choice in Colorado are charter schools. These schools are tuition-free public schools that have extra freedom to innovate with learning methods. If traditional public schools are a little like luxury liners that are able to serve many people but slower to turn when the wind changes, charter schools are a little like sailboats, which are built for a smaller number of people but are easier to adjust and navigate. As of the 2019-2020 school year, Colorado has more than 250 charter schools that parents can choose from. 

Each public charter school has a charter that explains the school’s purpose and what specific community need it serves. This purpose might be providing a STEAM 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.  

Colorado Magnet Schools

You can also choose magnet schools! These public schools allow kids to narrow in on a specific learning track, like engineering or STEM. At a magnet school, all the subjects are taught through the lenses of that specific track. Colorado has several magnet schools scattered throughout the state, and these might be a good option if your kid learns best by focusing in on a subject he or she is passionate about. 

For example, we recently interviewed one Colorado magnet school, New Emerson School at Columbus. Students at New Emerson combined the ideas of a library and a laboratory to make a “libratory.” Cool stuff! 

Colorado Private Schools

Additionally, Colorado families can choose from private schools, which come in all shapes and forms, from religious schools to schools designed for children with special needs. These schools are nonpublic schools that charge tuition. 

Effective in 2018, the federal government allows parents to save for K-12 private school tuition using tax-preferred 529 savings accounts. Unfortunately, in Colorado there are no state-run scholarship programs to help families afford private school tuition.

Colorado 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. Colorado offers several free, full-time online learning options for students, like Colorado Connections Academy and Colorado Virtual Academy. In addition, Colorado Digital Learning Solutions offers part-time courses for middle-school and high-school students. While Colorado Digital Learning Solutions charges fees, students attending Colorado traditional public schools and public charter schools may have their fees subsidized.

For instance, we recently interviewed a Colorado online school, GOAL Academy, here. This online school has drop-in centers where students can work and frequent school field trips, offering families a unique blend of virtual and in-person education. 

Colorado Homeschooling

Homeschooling is also available to Colorado families. Homeschooling is the process of parents educating students at home and is permitted in all 50 states. As both technology and school choices have spread in Colorado, homeschooling is an increasingly popular choice with more support and resources than ever.

Some online resources about Colorado homeschooling include: the Department of Education’s homeschooling page, Home School Legal Defense Association’s Colorado page, Christian Home Educators of Colorado, Colorado Heritage Education School System, and Western Colorado Homeschool Connections

Colorado students celebrate School Choice Week

Education Resources for Colorado Parents 

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

School Choice Celebrations in Colorado

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! 

Colorado celebrated National School Choice Week 2020 with a record-breaking 690 events and activities across the state. Click the button below to learn more about school choice in Colorado.

Visit State Page


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