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Last Upated: July 22, 2021
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.
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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 $10,177 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.
If a student participating in open enrollment is choosing a different school within the same district, the district will provide transportation or reimburse parents’ costs. If the family selects a school in a different school district, parents are responsible for transportation.
Find out more about public schools in your state here: New Mexico’s Department of Education.
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; these schools serve more than 25,000 students. 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 Public Charter Schools of New Mexico.
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. Most of New Mexico’s magnet schools are concentrated in the Albuquerque Public School District.
New Mexico also has dozens 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, since 2018, the federal government allows parents to save for K-12 private school tuition using tax-preferred 529 savings accounts.
Whether your child wants to accelerate learning or needs a quieter environment to focus in, you may be interested in virtual school. In New Mexico there are several free, full-time online learning options for students, such as 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 Connections Academy has seats available in grades 4-12. The school does accept mid-year transfer students.
At New Mexico Connections Academy, families may request one computer and an internet subsidy per household.
New Mexico parents can choose homeschooling, which is the process of parents educating students at home. Homeschooling is a choice in all 50 states.
In New Mexico, it is required that you provide notice of your intent to homeschool within 30 days of starting and annually by August 1. 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 Secretary of Education. Your student’s placement will be determined by age or their score on state achievement tests – credits may not be accepted.
If you are looking for a highly customizable and flexible education for your child and think homeschooling could fit the bill, read more resources specific to New Mexico.
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 New Mexico. Read more about the requirements for homeschooling and get tips from HSLDA here. Note that homeschooled students in New Mexico may still be eligible to participate in sports, activities, or classes at local public schools, and are also eligible to take classes at the state’s online 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 New Mexico 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 several free, full-time online schools that are available to students statewide.
For additional information about school choices in New Mexico, 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!
New Mexico celebrated National School Choice Week 2021 with 196 virtual events and activities across the state. Click the button below to learn more about school choice in New Mexico.
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