Guide to School Choice in Indiana

By: National School Choice Week Team

Choosing a school? You’ve got options. 

Choosing where your child goes to school is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make as a parent, but you’re not alone in it. Thousands of Indiana parents make K-12 education decisions each year. You can do it! And remember, each child is unique. So, the “best” school for your child may be different than the “best” school for your neighbor’s child. 

If you live in Indiana, you have access to six main types of school. Understanding these options is the best starting point for finding a great school for your family. 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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Indiana Traditional Public Schools

Most Indiana children attend traditional public schools, which represent the most well-known school choice. Traditional public schools are operated by school districts, free to attend, open to all students, and funded by taxpayers. On average, Indiana spends $11,626 per public school student each year. 

Each state has its own open enrollment rules. Open enrollment refers to whether parents can send their children to any public school, regardless of where it is located. In Indiana, parents have restricted open enrollment; so, students can request to transfer to any public school of their choice, provided the school has a policy allowing for open enrollment. Open enrollment is a valuable form of public school choice, giving parents more tuition-free options for their child. If you would like to participate in open enrollment, contact your local district to learn more. 

Indiana Charter Schools

Besides traditional public schools, charter schools are another free, public school option. Charter schools are public schools that are allowed the freedom to innovate while being held accountable for student achievement. The school’s charter describes what unique community need the school fills, and the school may be authorized by a governing body, a college, or the Indiana Charter School Board. 

For example, one charter school we interviewed, Career Academy at South Bend, uses a project-based learning style to engage 6-12 grade students in highly technical building projects. “We emphasize the high-demand, high-wage jobs in our region: construction, engineering, computer science, biomedical and health sciences,” Career Academy’s Superintendent Alex Hammel told us. “We’ve got students doing internships at manufacturing companies and all these places. Employers are absolutely dying for talented students, so this is a great place for them. And the students are grateful because they’re having these amazing opportunities before they’re even out of high school.”

Indiana opened its first eleven charter schools in 2002. Today, there are more than 100 charter schools across the state, providing an important tuition-free education option for families. If there are more families seeking admittance to a charter school than there are seats, a lottery system (like drawing random names out of a hat!)  is usually used to determine admittance. 

Indiana Magnet Schools

Additionally, you can choose magnet schools. These free public schools allow kids to focus on specialized themes, like International Baccalaureate, Montessori, or the performing arts. In the Indianapolis Public School district, for instance, there are 17 magnet elementary and middle schools. If your child learns best by focusing in on a subject he or she is passionate about and you have a magnet school in your area, this may be a good choice for you. 

Indiana Private Schools

You can also consider private schools. Indiana’s private schools are nonpublic schools that charge tuition and have more freedom in learning curriculum and structure. Many but not all private schools offer education in a faith-based environment. Indiana has quite a few options to help parents afford private school if they decide that is best for their child. Parents in Indiana can take tax deductions for private school or homeschool expenses, and families under a certain income level can qualify for state-run scholarships for private schools

Also, effective in 2018, the federal government allows parents to save for K-12 private school tuition using tax-preferred 529 savings accounts. 

Indiana 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. For example, free, full-time online learning options for Indiana students include Indiana Connections Academy and Indiana Digital Learning School Another option Indiana students can choose is IU High School, a fully accredited online private high school run by Indiana University. Students at IU High School can take courses to supplement their educational experiences in brick and mortar institutions, or students may pursue a high school diploma online full-time. IU High school was founded in 1925, so it’s been allowing students to attain a high school diploma at a distance for nearly a century! 

Indiana Homeschooling

Finally, homeschooling, the process of parents educating students at home, is permitted in Indiana and all other states. As technology and choices have spread in Indiana, homeschooling is an increasingly popular choice with more support than ever. Check here for a great how-to about homeschooling in Indiana. 

Education Resources for Indiana Parents

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

School Choice Celebrations in Indiana

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! 

Indiana celebrated National School Choice Week 2020 with a record-breaking 1,352 events and activities across the state. Click the button below to learn more about school choice in Indiana.

Visit State Page


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