Connecticut School Choice Roadmap

By: National School Choice Week Team

Last Upated: January 19, 2023

Choosing a school? You’ve got options. 

Deciding where to send your child to school is one of the biggest decisions you face as a parent. Navigating your choices for K-12 education starts with knowing what options are available to you in Connecticut. There may be more options than you realize! Once you’re equipped with knowing your options, you can make the best choice for your family. 

Connecticut 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 Connecticut 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.

      Connecticut Traditional Public Schools

      Most children in Connecticut (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 federal, state, and local government. Did you know that Connecticut spends an average of $21,346 per public school student each year? You can search your school’s spending and that of nearby schools at Project Nickel.

      Connecticut has restricted open enrollment for public school. What this means is that parents in some Connecticut cities may be able to choose traditional public schools outside of their districts. This applies in Hartford, Bridgeport, New Haven, and New London, and may apply in other cities. Transfers within districts are sometimes an option as well. As a real-world example, you may wish to view the transfer application for switching schools within Norwalk Public Schools. Local boards of education decide whether to provide transportation for students participating in open enrollment.

      If you live in an area of Connecticut with open enrollment, 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. If you would like to participate in open enrollment, contact your local district for more information. 

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

      Connecticut Charter Schools

      Charter schools are another free school option for Connecticut families. Connecticut passed a charter school law in 1996 and now has more than 20 public charter schools that parents can choose from. 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 curriculum and learning methods and are accountable to authorizing entities (like school districts or colleges) for results. 

      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 good old-fashioned lottery system is usually used to determine admittance. 

      To learn more about charter options in your state, check out the Northeast Charter Schools Network. You can read about sixth-graders from one Connecticut charter school who made a difference in their community.

      Connecticut Magnet Schools

      Depending on where you live in Connecticut, you may also be able to choose a magnet school. These schools are free public schools that allow kids to focus on specific themes or tracks, like STEM or the performing arts. For example, Breakthrough Magnet School in Hartford has a unique character education curriculum; the school has been recognized two years in a row for exemplary performance by Magnet Schools of America. A magnet school might be a good option if your child learns best by focusing on a subject they are passionate about.

      Connecticut has more than 90 magnet schools that families can choose from, more than half of which are interdistrict. To find your local magnet school, use the complete list of Greater Hartford area magnet schools, or the complete list of magnet schools outside the Greater Hartford area. You may also find frequently asked questions about Connecticut magnet schools and a family guide to school choice in the greater Hartford Region helpful.

      Connecticut Private Schools

      While magnet schools are a choice many parents haven’t heard of, most families are familiar with private schools. Connecticut’s private schools come in all shapes and forms, from religious schools to schools designed for children with special needs. 

      There are more than 400 private schools across the state of Connecticut. The average tuition for private schools in the state is $23,400 for elementary schools and $40,748 for high schools. In Connecticut, there are no state-run scholarships to help families afford private school tuition, but privately-funded scholarships may be available. Additionally, the federal government allows parents to save for K-12 private school tuition using tax-preferred 529 savings accounts.

      Learn more at CEO Foundation of Connecticut, the Connecticut Catholic Conference, and Private School Review: Connecticut

      Connecticut Online Learning

      While most states have free online school programs, Connecticut only has paid options available at present, such as George Washington University Online High SchoolThe Keystone School, Excel High School, and K12 Private Academy. While the schools are available to families in Connecticut for a fee, they are not specific to the state. 

      Many Connecticut districts do offer online options for credit recovery.

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

      Connecticut Homeschooling

      Also, Connecticut families can choose homeschooling, the process of parents educating students at home. You can homeschool in all 50 states and homeschooling is an increasingly popular choice. As both technology and school choices have spread in Connecticut, there are more support and resources for homeschooling than ever.

      In Connecticut, families should file a notice of intent to homeschool within 10 days of beginning homeschooling. Notice is required annually. It is also recommended that you formally withdraw from your current school so that your student is not marked truant.

      If you choose to homeschool, you are required to teach specific subjects (like reading, U.S. history, and and geography) but specific standardized tests are not required. In general, children who are homeschooled may face roadblocks if they want to participate in public school sports in Connecticut. However, you can look for other sports leagues near you.

      To learn more about homeschooling in Connecticut, check out the Home School Legal Defense Association – Connecticut for a great how-to. You may also wish to check out the Connecticut State Department of Education’s homeschooling page, the CT Homeschool Network, or the CT Education Association of Christian Homeschoolers

      Connecticut 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 Connecticut. 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 Connecticut 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. 

      students and teachers celebrate school choice in Connecticut

      Education Resources for Connecticut Parents 

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


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