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Last Upated: April 15, 2021
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. Nebraska families can choose from traditional public schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online schools, homeschooling. and learning pods.
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Most children in Nebraska attend traditional public schools. Traditional public schools are free to attend, open to all students, operated by school districts, and funded by taxpayers like you. Each year, Nebraska spends an average of $14,385 per public school student.
Nebraska has unrestricted open enrollment for public schools. What this means is that you can send your child to any public school in Nebraska, regardless of where you live or where the school is located. You can take advantage of this option by visiting multiple public schools near you and discovering which is the best fit for your family. Traditional public schools aren’t all the same: They may differ in learning methods and one may just “feel different” than another to you.
When a student uses open enrollment in Nebraska, transportation is typically the responsibility of the parents or provided by the receiving district for a fee, unless the student is eligible for free or reduced price lunch, part of a diversity focus program, or a student with learning disabilities, in which case transportation is typically free.
Find out more about public schools in your state: Nebraska’s Department of Education.
Nebraska currently does not have any public charter schools, but charters may be in Nebraska’s future! Charter schools are tuition-free public schools that are allowed extra freedom to innovate while being held accountable for student achievement. Nebraska is one of only five states that has not passed laws allowing for the creation of public charter 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. Nebraska has a handful of magnet schools scattered throughout the state, and these might be a good option if your child learns best by focusing in on a subject they are passionate about. For instance, Omaha Public Schools has both elementary and high school magnet programs.
Families in Nebraska 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. Nebraska’s more than 150 private schools come in all shapes and forms, from religious schools to schools designed for children with special needs.
The average tuition for private schools in the state is $3,664 per year, but keep in mind that schools often are more affordable at the elementary level than high school. Unfortunately, there are no state-run scholarship options in Nebraska at present, but private scholarships may be available. The federal government does allow parents in all 50 states to save for K-12 private school tuition using tax-preferred 529 savings accounts.
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.
While most states have free, public online programs that families can choose, Nebraska does not currently have that option. The state does offer a paid option: University of Nebraska High School Online. Other paid options, like George Washington University Online High School, The Keystone School, and K12 International Academy, are available to Nebraska families but are not state-specific. Families interested in enrolling at University of Nebraska High School Online can do so at any point during the year; there is no deadline for enrollment. The school does not supply families with technology and wifi.
Nebraska families can also choose to homeschool their children, which allows for a highly customizable and personalized learning experience. Homeschooling is the process of parents educating students at home and is permitted in all 50 states.
In Nebraska, the state requires notice of your intent to homeschool by July 15 or promptly upon choosing to homeschool. It is recommended that you formally withdraw 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, you must notify the Nebraska Department of Education in writing.
Check out a roundup of homeschooling resources specific to Nebraska.
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 Nebraska. Read more about the requirements for homeschooling and get tips from HSLDA here. Note that homeschooled students in Nebraska may still be eligible to participate in sports, activities, or classes at local public schools.
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 Nebraska 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 enrolling in a full-time private online school for a fee.
For additional information about school choices in Nebraska 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!
Nebraska celebrated National School Choice Week 2021 with 171 virtual events and activities across the state. Click the button below to learn more about school choice in Nebraska.
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