Mississippi School Choice Roadmap

By: National School Choice Week Team

Last Upated: January 19, 2023

Choosing a school? You’ve got options. 

 If you live in Mississippi, you have access to more K-12 education options than you might realize. Navigating these options and finding the best fit for your child can make a world of difference for your family. This guide will breakdown the six types of schools available to you, as well as provide additional education resources and school choice news.

Mississippi families can choose from traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online academies, and homeschooling. We’ll also cover learning pods!

Looking for special education options? You can learn what special education services are available in Mississippi at the Ultimate Guide to Special Education.

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Traditional public schools do not charge tuition. They are managed by school districts and do not require students to pass tests to enroll.
Public charter schools do not charge tuition. They are usually managed by nonprofit organizations and do not require students to pass tests to enroll.
Public magnet schools do not charge tuition. They are managed by school districts and focus on themes, such as math, science, technology, and the arts.
Private schools charge tuition, but scholarships are often available via state programs or by individual schools. Private schools are privately managed and can be faith-based or secular.

      Mississippi Traditional Public Schools

      Traditional public schools are operated by school districts, free to attend, open to all students, and funded by federal, state, and local government. Did you know that Mississippi spends an average of $9,653 per public school student each year? You can search your school’s spending and that of nearby schools at Project Nickel.

      In Mississippi, the state allows each district to set its own open enrollment policies; the state only requires districts to offer open enrollment if parents live 30 miles away from their child’s assigned school. “Open enrollment” refers to whether parents can send their children to any public school, regardless of where it is located. Mississippi parents should check with their local school district if they wish to participate in open enrollment.

      For a real-world example of the transfer process, check out Jackson Public Schools’ guidelines for applying for an in-district or district-to-district transfer. If you do have access to open enrollment, this can expand the list of public schools you can choose from, helping you find the best match for your family. When an agreement between school districts is made allowing a student to participate in open enrollment, it must include transportation provisions. 

      Find out more about public schools in your state at the Mississippi Department of Education

      Mississippi Charter Schools

      Depending on where you live in Mississippi, you might have access to a public charter school. Like traditional public schools, charter schools are public, free, and typically have no requirements for entry. What distinguishes charter schools is that they enjoy extra freedom to innovate with curriculum and learning methods and are accountable to authorizing bodies for results. 

      Mississippi passed legislation allowing charter schools in 2010. Currently, Mississippi has seven authorized charter schools serving more than 1,500 students. An eighth charter school, SR1, College Prep & STEM Academy, is opening for the 2022-2023 school year in Canton.

      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 (like drawing random names out of a hat!)  is usually used to determine admittance. 

      Mississippi Magnet Schools

      You can also choose 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. Mississippi has several magnet schools scattered throughout the state, and these might be a good option if your kid learns best by focusing in on a subject he or she is passionate about. Some of the districts with magnet schools or programs include the Cleveland School District, the Natchez-Adams School District, and Jackson Public Schools. Columbus Municipal School District even has magnet choices that allow kids to focus on aerospace, international studies, and healthy living.

      Mississippi Private Schools

      Private schools offer a unique learning environment that may be smaller in size, pass on a specific religious tradition, or provide a different curriculum than is available in your district school. Private schools can be defined as nonpublic schools that charge tuition. 

      There are about 240 private schools across the state of Mississippi. The average tuition for private schools in the state is $5,558 for elementary schools and $6,342 for high schools.

      In Mississippi, there are several state-run scholarship programs helping families with special needs gain access to private schools. The Mississippi Dyslexia Therapy Scholarship is designed specifically to help children with dyslexia access private schools with dyslexic therapy programs. Meanwhile, the Nate Rogers Scholarship program provides vouchers to certain private schools to students with speech-language therapy needs. Meanwhile, the Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs program allows students with an IEP to receive some of their public education funding in a savings account, which can be used for approved education expenses, like private school tuition. 

      Learn more at the MidSouth Association of Independent Schools and Private School Review: Mississippi.

      Mississippi Online Learning

      Whether your child wants to accelerate his or her learning or needs a quieter environment in which to focus, don’t overlook virtual school as an option. Mississippi does not offer a free, full-time online school. However, in some cases, students may be able to enroll in part-time classes through their school district and Mississippi Online Course Approval (MOCA). For example, students can take some MOCA-approved online classes through Booneville School District Online.

      Also, paid full-time online school options, such as George Washington University Online High SchoolThe Keystone School, Excel High School, and K12 Private Academy, are available to students in every state, including Mississippi. Additionally, both Mississippi State University and University of Mississippi allow highschoolers to take online courses for a fee.

      To read more about online learning in Mississippi, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

      Mississippi Homeschooling

      Mississippi parents can also choose homeschooling; 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. Parents can homeschool in all 50 states.

      In Mississippi, notice of your intent to homeschool is required by September 15 or immediately upon your decision to homeschool if starting mid-year. The state does not require homeschooling families to teach specific subjects and does not require standardized testing for homeschoolers. In general, children who are homeschooled may face roadblocks if they want to participate in public school sports or activities in Mississippi. However, you can always look for other sports leagues and co-ops!

      In the case that you decide to return to public school, contact your local school to find out what their placement guidelines are as they each have their own process.

      To learn more, check out a great roundup of resources about homeschooling specific to Mississippi

      Mississippi Learning Pods

      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.

      Self-Directed 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 Mississippi. Read more about the requirements for homeschooling and get tips from HSLDA.

      If your learning pod contains more than two families and will have parents or other teachers leading unique classes just for your school, it may qualify as a private school. You can read more about what Mississippi classifies as a private school, how they’re regulated, and how to start one.

      Learning Support Pods:

      If your child is enrolled in an existing online school or local public, charter, or private school, and uses that school’s curriculum under the supervision of an adult in a learning pod, you do not need to register as a homeschool or private school. 

      Education Resources for Mississippi Parents 

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


      Visit State Page


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