Guide to School Choice in Missouri

By: National School Choice Week Team

Choosing a school? You’ve got options. 

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? 

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 grows and learns to the best of their ability. Missouri families can choose from traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online academies, and homeschooling.

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Missouri Traditional Public Schools

The most common school choice in Missouri is traditional public school. Districts operate traditional public schools, which are free to attend, open to all students, and funded by taxpayers. Did you know that on average, Missouri spends $11,756 per public school student each year? 

In Missouri, parents have restricted open enrollment. Open enrollment refers to whether you can send your child to a public school other than your assigned school. Some Missouri parents, such as those who live in school districts that have lost state accreditation, may be able to choose any traditional public school in another district for their child. You can find out if you have access to open enrollment by contacting your local district. This is an important form of public school choice, widening parents options and ensuring that their zip code isn’t the sole determiner of their education.

Missouri Charter Schools

Charter schools are another tuition-free public school option for families. Currently, Missouri only has charter schools in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas. Like traditional public schools, charter schools are public, free, and usually have no requirements for entry. What distinguishes charter schools is that they are allowed extra freedom to innovate with curriculum and learning methods and held accountable to authorizing bodies for results. 

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. 

Missouri 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. Missouri has several magnet schools scattered throughout the state. If there is one near you with a theme that interests your child; this could be a great school choice. For a sampling of the magnet elementary schools available in the St. Louis Public School district, click here

Missouri Private Schools

Families in Missouri can also consider private schools, nonpublic schools that charge tuition. Private schools may offer a unique curriculum, smaller class sizes, or a faith-based tradition. Missouri’s private schools come in all shapes and forms, from religious schools to schools designed for children with special needs. Unfortunately, Missouri does not have any state-run scholarship programs at this time, though private school choice programs are being proposed

Missouri Online Learning

Don’t overlook online learning, which offers a uniquely flexible learning environment that meets a variety of family needs. Whether your child wants to accelerate his or her learning or needs a quieter environment in which to focus, you may be interested in giving virtual school a try.

Missouri public school students have access to individual online courses or free, full-time online programs through MOCAP (Missouri Course Access and Virtual School Program). In order to participate, students must get enrollment approved by their resident school district. Also, any non-public student in Missouri, from kindergarten through 12th grade, can take courses online through  MOCAP for a fee. In some cases, such as students having certain medical conditions, the tuition can be waived.

Missouri Homeschooling

Homeschooling is another school option. Homeschooling is the process of parents educating students at home and is permitted in all 50 states. Check here for resources about homeschooling specific to Missouri. 

Education Resources for Missouri Parents 

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

 School Choice Celebrations in Missouri

National School Choice Week 2021 will take place January 24 – January 30, 2021. We encourage all schools, homeschool groups, organizations and individuals to join the celebration. Click here for ideas, inspiration, and more information! 

Missouri celebrated National School Choice Week 2020 with a record-breaking 1,200 events and activities across the state. Click the button below to learn more about school choice in Missouri.

Visit State Page


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