Guide to School Choice in Maine

By: National School Choice Week Team

Choosing a school? You’ve got options. 

Education is a big decision; after all, it has a huge impact on your child’s future. Fortunately, Maine families have access to several K-12 options. Understanding and navigating these options can help you find a school where your child’s personality and talents are nurtured. This post will explain the six types of schools available in Maine, as well as provide additional education resources. 

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

Maine students celebrate School Choice Week

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Maine Traditional Public Schools

Most children in Maine 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 Maine spends an average of $16,006 per public school student each year

Maine has restricted open enrollment for public school. Open enrollment is an important form of public school choice; it refers to whether you can send your child to a public school other than the one you are assigned to. In Maine, the state allows districts to set their own open enrollment policies. So, Maine parents should check with their district if they would like to transfer their child to a different public school. 

Maine Charter Schools

You can also choose charters! Charter schools are tuition-free public schools that have extra freedom to innovate with curriculum and learning methods. Maine currently has seven brick-and-mortar charter schools that parents can choose from, as well as two online charter schools. 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 usually determines admittance. 

Under Maine law, only 10 charter schools can be authorized in the first 10 years (2011-2021) of charter schools being allowed in the state. Maine’s 10th charter school, The Ecology Learning Center, is scheduled to open Fall 2020. For more information on charter schools in your state, check out the Maine Association for Charter Schools

Maine Magnet Schools

Magnet schools are free public schools that allow kids to focus on specific themes, like science or the performing arts. There are currently two magnet schools in Maine. The Maine School of Science and Mathematics was recently ranked the second-best public high school in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. The state also has a public magnet school geared toward studying marine science, technology, transportation, and engineering: The Maine Ocean School. If you live near one of Maine’s magnet schools, your child may be able to attend the public magnet school rather than their public neighborhood school. 

Maine Private Schools

Families in Maine 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. Maine’s private schools come in all shapes and forms, from religious schools to schools designed for children with special needs. Maine has the nation’s second oldest school choice program, enacted in 1873. Through Maine’s Town Tuitioning Program, students who live in town without a public school can receive funding to attend schools in other communities. 

Maine Online Learning

Online learning offers a uniquely flexible learning environment that meets a variety of family needs. Maybe your child wants to accelerate learning or maybe they need a quieter environment in which to focus. Either way, you may be interested in giving virtual school a try. Maine students can attend free, full-time online school programs through the online public charter schools Maine Connections Academy or Maine Virtual Academy

Maine Homeschooling

Another option for Maine families is homeschooling, the process of parents educating students at home. Families in all 50 states can homeschoool! If you are looking for extra customization and flexibility for your child’s education and think homeschooling could fit the bill, find out more about Maine’s homeschooling rules here.  

Students celebrate school choice in Maine

Education Resources for Maine Parents 

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

School Choice Celebrations in Maine

National School Choice Week 2020 will take place January 26 – February 1, 2020. We encourage all schools, homeschool groups, organizations and individuals to sign up to receive a free box of NSCW supplies for celebrations in 2020. Click here for more information.

Maine celebrated National School Choice Week 2019 with 155 events and activities across the state.

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