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Last Upated: July 21, 2021
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, homeschooling, and learning pods.
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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 $12,756 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, and they are responsible for transporting their child to that 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.
Find out more about public schools in your state here: Michigan’s Department of 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. The Lansing School District offers more than 10 magnet schools or programs. Other districts with magnet offerings include Michigan City Area Schools, Detroit Public Schools, Ann Arbor Public Schools, and more. 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. There are about 900 private schools across the state of Michigan. Tuition costs vary widely, but the average in the state is $6,107 for private elementary schools and $10,527 for private high schools.
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 but have funding concerns, you can ask whether there are any privately funded scholarships available. Also, the federal government allows parents to save for K-12 private school tuition using tax-preferred 529 savings accounts. .
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, Highpoint Virtual Academy of Michigan, Michigan Virtual Charter Academy, Michigan Great Lakes Virtual Academy, and Michigan International Prep School. Students in grades 6-12 who would like extra academic support or credit recovery courses may be interested in considering Insight School of Michigan.
In addition, Michigan Virtual offers part-time online classes for middle-school and high-school students; fees may apply.
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.”
As of December 2020, at Michigan Connections Academy, there are seats available for grades K-10, while grades 11-12 are at capacity. Highpoint Virtual Academy of Michigan still has seats available in grades K-12. There is no waitlist yet, but the school is close to reaching its maximum enrollment capacity. Michigan Great Lakes Virtual Charter Academy, Insight School of Michigan, and Michigan Virtual Charter Academy are all accepting applications subject to a waitlist. Michigan International Prep School enrolls new students year-round.
At Michigan Connections Academy, students may request one computer and an internet subsidy per household. At Highpoint Virtual Academy of Michigan, loaner computers may be available based on financial need and eligibility. Insight School of Michigan students are provided a computer. Michigan Great Lakes Virtual Academy and Michigan Virtual Charter Academy families are provided a computer and an internet stipend. All Michigan International Prep School students receive a school-issued Chromebook on loan, as well as either a MiFi hotspot or basic internet package.
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.
You are not required to notify government or education authorities if you are homeschooling under Michigan’s homeschooling statute. However, submitting a notice of your intent to homeschool at the beginning of each school year is required if you are homeschooling as a nonpublic school. It is also recommended that you formally withdrawing from your public school so your student is not marked truant. In the case that you decide to return to public school in the middle of the school year, contact your local school to find out what their placement guidelines are as each school has their own unique guidelines.
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.
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 Michigan. Read more about the requirements for homeschooling and get tips from HSLDA here. Note that homeschoolers in Michigan may still be eligible to participate in classes, sports, or activities at local public schools. Additionally, Michigan homeschoolers are eligible to enroll in online classes at the Michigan Virtual School.
If your learning pod contains more than two families and will have teachers leading unique classes just for your school, it may qualify as a private school. You can read more about what Michigan classifies as a private school, how they’re regulated, and how to start one.
If your child is going to be enrolled in remote learning through your local public school and supervised by an adult in your learning pod, you do not need to register as a homeschool or private school. Keep in mind that you have multiple online learning options, including several free, full-time online schools that are available to students statewide.
Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Instruction released a memo in August 2020 detailing rules applying to school-age child care, some of which may apply to learning pods.
For additional information about school choices in Michigan, visit these resources:
National School Choice Week 2022 will take place January 23 – 29, 2022. We encourage all schools, homeschool groups, organizations and individuals to join the celebration. Check out ideas, inspiration, and more information!
Michigan celebrated National School Choice Week 2021 with 1,122 virtual events and activities across the state. Click the button below to learn more about school choice in Michigan.
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