Guide to School Choice in New Mexico

By: National School Choice Week Team

Choosing a school? You’ve got options. 

If you’re making a decision about your child’s K-12 education, you’re not alone. Thousands of New Mexico parents make school decisions each year for their children. You can do it! And, you have a variety of options available to choose from. Understanding your options can help you find a learning environment where your child is able not just to “get by” at school, but to thrive. Remember, each child is unique. So, the “best” school for your child may be different than the “best” school for your neighbor’s child. 

In New Mexico, families can choose from traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online academies, and homeschooling.

students celebrate New Mexico school choice

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New Mexico Traditional Public Schools

As you might guess, most children in New Mexico 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. Did you know that New Mexico spends an average of $10,754 per public school student each year? 

New Mexico has restricted open enrollment. Open enrollment refers to whether parents can send their children to any public school, regardless of where it is located. New Mexico parents who live near low-performing schools may transfer their children to another school inside or outside their district. Parents in other circumstances should check with their local school district. If you do have access to open enrollment, this can broaden your public school options, allowing you more choices to find the best fit for your child. 

New Mexico Charter Schools

New Mexico families have another public school choice: public charter schools. These are tuition-free schools that are allowed extra freedom to innovate with curriculum and learning methods. New Mexico has more than 90 charter schools that parents can choose from. Each school has a charter which explains the school’s purpose and what specific community need it serves, whether that be providing a STEM program or offering a rigorous, literacy-based curriculum. 

At New Mexico International School, for instance, the goal is for students to become bi-literate in Spanish and English and conversant in Arabic. “No one comes to New Mexico International School because they have a certain zip code or live near us,” said Head of School Todd Knouse. “Every child is here because their parents said, ‘I like the mission of that school.’ Everybody’s got to come to that prospective parent night because that’s how we give the lottery numbers out.”

As Knouse’s comment indicates, 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. Learn more about charter school options in your state from the New Mexico Coalition of Charter Schools.  

New Mexico Magnet Schools

Magnet schools are a third type of free public school. Magnet schools are unique in that they allow kids to focus on specific themes, like science or the performing arts. New Mexico’s magnet programs include ones that focus on STEM, the International Baccalaureate program, arts curriculum, and more. Read more about Albuquerque Public School district’s magnet schools here

New Mexico Private Schools

New Mexico also has hundreds of private schools, nonpublic schools that charge tuition, that parents can choose from. Many of these schools offer a specific religious or cultural tradition unavailable in neighborhood schools. 

There are no state-run scholarship options in New Mexico, but private scholarships may be available. Also, effective in 2018, the federal government allows parents to save for K-12 private school tuition using tax-preferred 529 savings accounts.

New Mexico Online Learning

Whether your child wants to accelerate learning or needs a quieter environment to focus in, you may be interested in virtual school. New Mexico offers several free, full-time online learning options for students, such as New Mexico Virtual Academy and New Mexico Connections Academy. In addition, the state’s Public Education Department offers a supplemental online course program. The state-run program charges fees to schools who enroll students. Some local districts absorb these costs, while some pass them along to families.

New Mexico Homeschooling

New Mexico parents can choose homeschooling, which is the process of parents educating students at home. Homeschooling is a choice in all 50 states. If you are looking for a highly customizable and flexible education for your child and think homeschooling could fit the bill, check here for resources specific to New Mexico. 

Education Resources for New Mexico Parents 

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

New Mexico celebrates National School Choice

School Choice Celebrations in New Mexico 

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

New Mexico celebrated National School Choice Week 2020 with a record-breaking 331 events and activities across the state. Click the button below to learn more about school choice in New Mexico.

Visit State Page


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