Guide to School Choice in Minnesota

By: National School Choice Week Team

Choosing a school? You’ve got options. 

If you’re wondering about school choice in Minnesota, here are two things to remember. First off, you’re not alone. Every year, tens of thousands of parents in Minnesota make K-12 school decisions for their children. Secondly, you can do it! Understanding your state’s different school options can help you find a learning environment where your child is not just “getting by” at school, but actually thriving and inspired to learn. 

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

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Minnesota Traditional Public Schools

Most Minnesota students attend traditional public schools. Traditional public schools are free to attend. They are open to all students, operated by school districts, and funded by taxpayers like federal, state, and local government. Did you know that Minnesota spends an average of $13,068 per public school student each year

Minnesota has fairly flexible open enrollment, which refers to whether a parent can choose to send their child to a public school other than their assigned district school. Minnesota parents may be able to choose a traditional public school in another district. Since no two public schools are exactly the same, open enrollment can valuably extend a family’s educational options and help them find the best match for their child. 

Minnesota Charter Schools

You can also consider charter schools. Minnesota has about 164 charter schools serving 57,000 children. Like traditional public schools, charter schools are public, free, and usually have no requirements for entry. What distinguishes charter schools is that they have extra freedom to innovate with learning methods and are accountable to authorizing bodies for results. 

Each school has a charter which explains the school’s purpose and what specific community need it serves. For example, 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 (like drawing random names out of a hat!)  is usually used to determine admittance. 

For instance, one charter school executive director we talked to told us about the Core Knowledge curriculum that is part of her school’s charter. “A Core Knowledge school gives kids information through oral telling, through experience, and we add on to their knowledge all the time,” described Lynn Peterson of Cologne Academy. 

Minnesota Magnet Schools

Magnet schools are free public schools that allow kids to narrow in on a specific learning track, such as engineering or the performing arts. At a magnet school, all the subjects are taught through the lenses of that specific track. Minnesota has several magnet schools scattered throughout the state. These might be a good option if there’s one near you with a theme that interests your child. 

Minnesota Private Schools

You can also choose private school! Minnesota families can choose the unique environment of a private school, which may pass on a religious tradition, use a specific curriculum, or offer a smaller classroom environment. While private schools do charge tuition, Minnesota parents are eligible for tax deductions on educational expenses, including tuition payments and homeschooling expenses.

Minnesota Online Learning

Whether your child wants to accelerate learning or needs a quieter environment, you may be interested in trying virtual school. Any student who lives in Minnesota, even if they have permanent residency elsewhere, can attend a full-time online school free of charge, such as through Minnesota Connections Academy or Minnesota Virtual Academy. Free part-time options are available for students enrolled in public schools (including charter schools). In addition, paid part-time options are available for nonpublic school students. Click here for more information about full-time and part-time online learning options in Minnesota. 

Minnesota Homeschooling

Homeschooling is another school option; this is a great option if you are looking for a hands-on, highly-customizable approach to your child’s education. Homeschooling is the process of parents educating students at home and is permitted in all 50 states. If you think homeschooling might be a good fit for your child, check here for Minnesota resources. 

students celebrate school choice in Minnesota

Education Resources for Minnesota Parents

For additional information about school choice in Minnesota visit these resources: 

 School Choice Celebrations in Minnesota

National School Choice Week 2021 will take place January 24 – 20, 2021. We encourage all schools, homeschool groups, organizations and individuals to join the celebration. Click here for ideas, inspiration, and more information! 

Minnesota celebrated National School Choice Week 2020 with a record-breaking 686 events and activities across the state. Click the button below to learn more about school choice in Minnesota.

Visit State Page


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