Each spring, parents face one of the biggest decisions they can make for their child’s future: What school environment will their child will spend about 1,000 hours in next year? Sound familiar?
Making that decision with confidence starts with knowing what options you have. You may have more school choices than you realize! Understanding these options can help you find a school where your child is excited to learn. Maryland families can choose from traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online academies, and homeschooling.
Most children in Maryland (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 Maryland spends an average of $13,146 per public school student each year?
Most states have some form of open enrollment. This refers to whether parents can send their child to a public school other than their assigned school. Open enrollment is an important choice, expanding parents’ options and ensuring that zip code isn’t the sole determiner of their education. Unfortunately, Maryland does not currently have public open enrollment.
You can also choose charter schools. Charter schools are tuition-free public schools that have extra freedom to innovate with curriculum and learning methods. Maryland has 50 charter schools that parents can choose from and that serve more than 22,000 students.
Each school has a charter which explains the school’s purpose and what specific community need it serves. That could be providing a Spanish immersion program or offering a rigorous STEAM 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. For more information on charter schools in your state, check out the Maryland Alliance of Public Charter Schools.
Magnet schools are free public schools that allow kids to narrow in on a specific learning track, such as an International Baccalaureate program or the performing arts. At a magnet school, all the subjects are taught through the lenses of that specific track. Maryland has several magnet schools throughout the state; there are more than 30 magnet schools in the Baltimore county area. If your child learns well through diving deeply into a particular subject, a magnet school could be a good fit.
As you may know, private schools are nonpublic schools that charge tuition. Maryland has a variety of private schools, both religious and non-religious. Maryland has one private school choice program, the Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today (BOOST) Program, which provides state-run educational scholarships for families under a certain income level.
Online learning is sometimes overlooked, but it offers a uniquely flexible learning environment. For example, some families use this flexibility to accelerate learning. Meanwhile, others use it to provide a quieter, stress-free environment for learning. Whatever the reason, you may want to try online learning. Unfortunately, Maryland does not currently have a free, full-time online learning program, but paid options are available, such as through K12.
Also, Maryland families have a sixth option in homeschooling, which is the process of parents educating students at home. Homeschooling is permitted in all 50 states. If you are looking for a highly customizable and flexible education for your child and think homeschooling could fit the bill, learn more about Maryland’s homeschooling rules here. You can also check out the Maryland Homeschool Association and the Maryland Association of Christian Home Educators.
In addition, you can visit these resources to learn more about school choices in Maryland:
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!
Maryland celebrated National School Choice Week 2020 with a record-breaking 773 events and activities across the state. Click the button below to learn more about school choice in Maryland.
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