Kansas School Choice Roadmap

By: National School Choice Week Team

Last Upated: June 2, 2023

Choosing a school? You’ve got options. 

Kansas parents, like parents everywhere, want to be able to choose a school where their child will learn and thrive. Finding the best school fit starts with knowing your options. There are a variety of school environments (six in total!) available for students in the Sunflower State. 

Families in Kansas can choose from traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online academies, and homeschooling. We’ll also talk about learning pods.

Looking for special education options? You can learn what special education services are available in Kansas at the Ultimate Guide to Special Education.


COVID-19 Update:

MCH Strategic Data, in partnership with Esri, have created a map to keep you informed of the rapid changes and impact of COVID-19 on school reopening plans and operations at the district level.  This resource tracks school district reopening data, learning models, sports participation, distance learning investments, and more.  Updates are made daily and new, timely insights will be added as the data is available.  View the map below or on the MCH Strategic Data website.   

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COVID-19 IMPACT: School Districts Status Updates for Fall 2020, current as of 11/13/2020, by MCH Strategic Data.  Compiled from public federal, state and local school districts information and media updates.

The Kansas State Department of Education released Navigating Change: Kansas’ Guide to Learning and School Safety Operations to help support schools as they make plans for the 2020-21 school year. All guidelines were created with two overarching areas in mind: operations and instruction; and all guidance is given across three learning environments: On-site (in school with or without social distancing), Hybrid (part of the time in the classroom and part-time virtual), and Remote (all students learning from home). The guidance is broken up into grade bands: Pre-K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12.

These are state-level guidelines and recommendations, check with your local district for specifics regarding how they plan to reopen safely!

Kansas celebrates school choice week

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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.

      Kansas Traditional Public Schools

      Most children in Kansas (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. Did you know that Kansas spends an average of $12,697 per public school student each year? You can search your school’s spending and that of nearby schools at Project Nickel.

      Some school districts in Kansas may allow open enrollment. Open enrollment refers to whether you can send your child to a public school other than the one assigned to you. Since districts set their own open enrollment polices in Kansas, parents should check with their local school district for more information. When a student participates in open enrollment, the two school districts must work out a transportation plan to share costs amongst themselves.

      Open enrollment will soon be expanding in Kansas! A bill passed in 2022 will allow students to transfer to any public school district with the room to take them, starting in 2024. If open enrollment is an option for you, take advantage of it 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. 

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

      Kansas Charter Schools

      Depending on where you live in Kansas, you may also be able to choose a public charter school. Kansas charter school legislation passed in 1994. Today, the state has 9 public charter schools

      Charter schools are tuition-free public schools that operate within a district but have extra freedom and independence to innovate. Public charter schools are accountable to their authorizer (which could be a college or school board) for student achievement. Because charter schools are public, there is generally no special requirement for admission… anyone can attend! If there are more families seeking admittance to a charter school than there are seats, an old-fashioned lottery system is usually used to determine admittance.  

      Kansas Magnet Schools

      Magnet schools are a third type of free public school. Magnet schools allow kids to focus on specific themes, like science or the performing arts. As Wichita Public Schools describes, “Magnet schools are based on the premise that all students do not learn in the same ways, so if there is a unifying theme or a different organizational structure for students of similar interest, those students will learn more in all areas.” In the Wichita district, there are 17 elementary magnet school locations and seven middle, high, and K-8 magnet locations. The number is growing: Coleman Middle School is planning to transition into an environmental-focused magnet school in 2023. There are also other magnet schools throughout the state, such as in Hutchinson, Kansas City, and Topeka.

      These might be a good option if your child learns best by focusing in on a subject he or she is passionate about. 

      Kansas Private Schools

      Families in Kansas 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. Kansas’s more than 220 private schools come in all shapes and forms, from religious schools to schools designed for children with special needs. 

      Tuition for private schools in the state can vary widely, but it averages $7,306 for elementary schools and $10,948 for high schools. Kansas’ first private school choice program was launched in 2015 and provides scholarships for low-income families to access another education option. As of 2021, any elementary or middle school student who receives free or reduced-cost lunches is eligible for the scholarship.

      Starting in 2023, more students will be eligible for scholarships. Families earning up to 250% of the federal poverty level (which is approximately $75,000 a year for a family of four) can apply for a scholarship. There may also be other private scholarship opportunities available; for example, ACE Scholarships works to provide scholarships for low-income children in Kansas. 

      Learn more at Private School Review: Kansas.

      Kansas Online Learning

      If you’re considering online learning in Kansas, you’re in good company. More than 14,000 Kansas students used a part-time or full-time online option in 2021. Kansas offers many free, full-time online learning options for students across districts. These include Andover eAcademyManhattan Virtual AcademyHaven Virtual AcademyUSD 309 Central State AcademyE-School Virtual Charter AcademyMaize Virtual Preparatory SchoolKansas Connections Academy, the Lawrence Virtual School (the largest online school in the state), and Kansas Online Learning Program

      There are many other options, some of which serve specific grades or regions. For example, for students in grades 7-12, an online option is the Insight School of Kansas, which specializes in helping students overcome obstacles to academic success. The Kansas State Department of Education keeps a comprehensive directory of virtual school programs, which includes many single-district online schools too. You can search the list for programs near you or programs that allow out-of-district student transfers.

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

      Kansas Homeschooling

      Homeschooling is another school option in Kansas and all 50 states. As technology and school choices have spread in Kansas, homeschoolers have more support and resources than ever.

      In Kansas, you must register as a non-accredited private school before starting to homeschool. It is also recommended that you formally withdraw from your public school so your student is not marked truant. In the case that you decide to return to public school, the school will test students for appropriate placement and decide what credits to accept.

      You are not required to teach specific subjects or use specific standardized tests if you choose to homeschool in Kansas. Keep in mind that children who are homeschooled may face roadblocks if they want to participate in public school sports or activities in Kansas. But, starting in 2023, participating in public school sports and activities just got easier. Be on the lookout for leagues and activities near you!

      Check out the Home School Legal Defense Association’s resources about Kansas homeschooling, the process of parents educating students at home. You may also want to check out the Midwest Parent Educators or Christian Home Educators Confederation of Kansas

      Kansas 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 or check out this example of a Kansas microschool in Wichita.

      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 Kansas. 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 Kansas 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. 

      Education Resources for Kansas Parents 

      For additional information about school choices in Kansas, visit this resource: 

      Kansas celebrates school choice week


      Visit State Page


      Explore School Choice. Get a free School Choice Snapshot for your state.

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