Choosing where your child goes to school is one of the biggest decisions you face. While it may feel intimidating to navigate your school options in Michigan and make a choice, 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.
A starting point for finding a great school for your family is knowing your options. This guide will break down the six main learning environments available in Michigan. In short, you can choose from traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online academies, and homeschooling.
Most often, Michigan families choose 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, Michigan spends $13,016 per public school pupil each year.
Some states have unrestricted open enrollment, which means that you can send your child to any public school, regardless of where you live or where the school is located. In Michigan, there is restricted open enrollment. Depending on the district and their school’s performance, parents may have the option to transfer their child to a different public school. This is an important form of public school choice, widening parents’ options and ensuring that zip code isn’t the sole determiner of their education.
You can also choose from charter schools! Charters are free, public schools open to all families. Charter schools are distinct from traditional public schools because they have extra freedom to innovate while being held accountable for student achievement. Charter schools can share the fruits of their innovation with traditional classrooms. If there are more families seeking admittance to a charter school than there are seats, a lottery system is usually used to determine admittance.
Michigan has more than 300 charter schools; you can learn more from the Michigan Charter Schools Association.
Magnet schools are a third type of free public education; these schools allow kids to focus on a specific theme, like science or the performing arts. Michigan has several magnet schools throughout the state. The International Academy of Macomb, for instance, is a county-wide International Baccalaureate magnet school that provides opportunities each year for its students to travel the world. If you live near a magnet school with a theme that interests your child, this could be an exciting choice for you.
Michigan has a plethora of private schools, both religious and non-religious ones. As you may know, private schools are nonpublic schools that charge tuition. Effective in 2018, the federal government allows parents to save for K-12 private school tuition using tax-preferred 529 savings accounts.
Michigan is one of the most constitutionally restrictive states for school choice, so there are currently no state-run scholarship opportunities that make private school more accessible to Michigan families. If you think a private school is best for your child, you can ask whether there are any privately funded scholarships available.
Whether your child wants to accelerate learning or needs a quieter environment, you may be interested in trying virtual school. Michigan offers several free, full-time online learning options for students. These include Michigan Connections Academy and Highpoint Virtual Academy of Michigan. In addition, Michigan Virtual offers part-time online classes for middle-school and high-school students; fees may apply.
For example, we recently talked to Michigan Connections Academy about what online learning offers families. Bryan Klochak, superintendent at Michigan Connections Academy, told us that there are so many reasons why families choose virtual school. “There’s really no one ideal student or family [for online school] because everybody is coming to us for their own specific reason,” he said. “In our environment, we’re able to individualize, and that’s a big draw for lots of people.”
Michigan families can also choose to homeschool, which allows for high levels of customized learning and flexibility. Homeschooling is the process of parents educating students at home; parents can homeschool in all 50 states. Click here or here to read more about homeschooling in Michigan.
For additional information about school choices in Michigan, visit these resources:
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!
Michigan celebrated National School Choice Week 2020 with a record-breaking 1,778 events and activities across the state. Click the button below to learn more about school choice in Michigan.
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