Guide to School Choice in Hawaii

By: National School Choice Week Team

Choosing a school? You’ve got options. 

The “best” school looks different for each family. After all, your child has a unique personality, academic strengths, and interests. That being the case, knowing your K-12 options in Hawaii can help you choose a great school for your child with confidence. This post will breakdown the six types of schools available to you, as well as provide some extra resources. 

In short, Hawaii families can choose from traditional public schools, public charter schools, private schools, online academies, and homeschooling.

Students celebrate school choice in Hawaii

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Hawaii Traditional Public Schools

Most children in Hawaii (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. In Hawaii, the state spends an average of $14,254 per public school pupil each year. 

Each state has different open enrollment laws for public school. In Hawaii, parents who want to choose a school outside of the traditional public school assigned to their child should contact their school district; the state allows districts to set their own open enrollment policies. Open enrollment is a valuable choice for parents because they give families access to more public school options. Traditional public schools aren’t all the same; they may differ in learning methods and one may be a better fit than another for your child. 

Hawaii Charter Schools

Depending on where you live in Hawaii, you may have another public school option in charter schools. Charter schools are tuition-free public schools that are allowed extra freedom to innovate with curriculum and learning methods. 

Hawaii has several 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, whether that be providing a language 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.

Hawaii Magnet Schools

In most states, families can also choose magnet schools. These are free public schools that allow kids to narrow in on a specific learning track, such as engineering or the performing arts. At a magnet school, all the subjects are taught through the lenses of that specific track. Unfortunately, magnet schools are not currently an option for Hawaii families, but they may be in the future! 

Hawaii Private Schools

Families in Hawaii 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. Hawaii’s private schools come in all shapes and forms, from religious schools to schools designed for children with special needs. 

Effective in 2018, the federal government allows parents to save for K-12 private school tuition using tax-preferred 529 savings accounts. Unfortunately, in Hawaii there are not currently any state-run scholarships to help families afford private school tuition.

Hawaii 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. High school and middle school students enrolled in any traditional public or charter school can take classes through Hawaii’s e-school. Parents who would like to enroll their student in online school full-time can hire a private provider.

Hawaii Homeschooling

Homeschooling is another school option. 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 Hawaii, homeschooling is an increasingly popular choice with more support and resources than ever. Check here for resources about homeschooling specific to Hawaii. 

Young children celebrate school choice in Hawaii

Education Resources for Hawaii Parents 

School Choice Celebrations in Hawaii

National School Choice Week 2020 will take place January 26 – February 1, 2020. We encourage all schools, homeschool groups, organizations and individuals to join the celebration. Click here for ideas, inspiration, and more information! 

Hawaii will celebrate National School Choice Week 2020 with a record-breaking 96 events and activities across the state. Learn more about some of these celebrations at


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