Kentucky School Choice Roadmap

By: National School Choice Week Team

Last Upated: January 19, 2023

Choosing a school? You’ve got options. 

If you live in Kentucky and face a K-12 education decision for your child, this post is for you. Where you send your child to school impacts whether they are inspired, happy, and equipped for success (no pressure, right?). You may have more school options than you realize! This post will breakdown the types of schools available to you in Kentucky, as well as provide additional education resources. 

In Kentucky, you can choose from traditional public 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 Kentucky 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.

      Kentucky Traditional Public Schools

      Most children in Kentucky (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. On average, Kentucky spends $11,397 per public school student each year

      Kentucky has more than 170 public school districts and flexible open enrollment for public school. What this means is that in most cases you can choose to send your child to a public school in your district other than the one you have been assigned. Additionally, as of July 2022, all Kentucky families are able to apply to public schools in other districts. The receiving district can set capacity limits, but must otherwise have a policy allowing for admission of non-resident students. If you would like to participate in open enrollment, contact your local district to learn more. In some cases, receiving districts in Kentucky charge fees for out-of-district students.

      Open enrollment is a valuable school choice. Just remember to ask the deadline and application process for any public school district you are interested in transferring into. For example, open enrollment in Scott County Schools usually takes place in early January each year for the upcoming fall. Additionally, keep in mind that high school students who transfer may be required to wait a year before participating in athletics at their new school.

      Find out more about public schools in your state at Kentucky’s Department of Education. If you live in Jefferson County, the largest school district in Kentucky, note that the district’s assignment plan will be dramatically changing starting in the 2023-2024 school year. “Choice zones” will be established to give families more options near their homes and expand magnet offerings.

      Kentucky Charter Schools

      In 2017, Kentucky became the 44th state in the country to allow charter schools. However, no charter schools have opened in Kentucky so far due to the fact that permanent funding for charters was not approved until spring 2022. Now that funding measures have been approved, new charter schools may be approved as early as the 2022-2023 school year, so stay tuned!

      Charter schools are tuition-free public schools that have the freedom to innovate while being held accountable for student achievement. 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.

      You can learn more at the Kentucky Public Charter Schools Association.

      Kentucky Magnet Schools

      Magnet schools are free public schools that allow kids to focus on specific themes, like science or the performing arts. Kentucky has a variety of magnet schools and programs spread throughout the state, including in Mason County School District, Fayette County Public Schools and Jefferson County Public Schools. Fayette County Public Schools, for instance, describes how it has magnet schools with these focuses: “Biomedical sciences (Frederick Douglass High School); International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (Tates Creek High School); traditional programs (LTMS); individually prescribed education (Dixie); Spanish immersion (Maxwell and Bryan Station middle and high); science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM Academy and Rise STEM Academy for Girls); and curriculum taught through the lens of African-American history and culture (Carter G. Woodson academies).”

      Kentucky Private Schools

      Families in Kentucky 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. Kentucky’s more than 350 private schools come in all shapes and forms, from religious schools to schools designed for children with special needs. The average tuition for private schools in the state is $6,921 for elementary schools and $8,090 for high schools.

      In 2021, Kentucky created a unique private school choice program. Through it, low-income families would be eligible for flexible funding to use at a public or private schools of their choosing. This program, the nation’s first education savings account program funded by tax-credit donations, was ruled unconstitutional in winter 2022.

      Learn more at EdChoice KY, the Catholic Conference of Kentucky, and Private School Review: Kentucky.

      Kentucky 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. While many states have free, full-time virtual schools available statewide, Kentucky does not yet have such an option. However, part-time or full-time courses may be available at a cost via Barren Academy of Virtual and Expanded Learning (BAVEL), The Corbin School of Innovation, or Jefferson County Public Schools eSchool. In some cases, schools may cover costs for a student’s online courses. More information on these paid options is available on the Kentucky Department of Education website.

      There are also some district online learning programs, such as Hardin County Schools Online Academy.

      Plus, there are private, full-time online schools that are available for a fee in all 50 states, such as George Washington University Online High SchoolThe Keystone School, Excel High School, and K12 Private Academy.

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

      Kentucky Homeschooling

      Homeschooling is another school option; it is the process of parents educating students at home. Families in all 50 states can homeschool. As technology and school choices have spread in Kentucky, homeschooling is an increasingly popular choice with more support than ever.

      In Kentucky, notice of your intent to homeschool is required annually within two weeks of the school year beginning or ten days prior to starting if you are starting mid-year. This notification should be sent to the superintendent of the local school board. It is recommended that you formally withdraw from your public school so your student is not marked truant.

      If you choose to homeschool, you are required to teach specific subjects (like reading, writing, math, and history) 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 or activities in Kentucky. However, you can always look for other leagues or co-ops near you!

      Homeschool parents are required to report basic information such as names and ages of students, but local school districts are never allowed to demand information that is not legally requiredYou can find a great how-to at the Home School Legal Defense Association about homeschooling in Kentucky.  You may also wish to check out Christian Home Educators of Kentucky

      Kentucky 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 we can separate them 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 Kentucky. 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 Kentucky 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 Kentucky Parents

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


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