Guide to School Choice in New York

By: National School Choice Week Team

Choosing a school? You’ve got options. 

Choosing where your child goes to school is one of the biggest decisions you face. While it may feel intimidating to navigate your school options in New York and make a choice, you can do it! The best starting point for choosing a good school fit is knowing your options. This post will break down the six main learning environments available in your state.

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

New York celebrates School Choice Week

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New York Traditional Public Schools

Most children in New York (and in America) 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, New York spends an average of $19,697 per public school student.

In New York, each district decides whether it will participate in open enrollment. Open enrollment is a valuable choice that refers to whether parents can send their children to any public school, regardless of where it is located or what their zip code is. If you would like to participate in open enrollment, check with your local school district to see if this is available. If so, you can visit and select from a wider array of public schools. Public schools have different environments and mission statements, and one may be a better fit for your child than another.

Check out our profile of one sixth-grader at a traditional public school in Buffalo, New York, here.

New York Charter Schools

You can also choose from charter schools! These are another type of free, public school open to all students. Charter schools are distinct from traditional public schools in that they have extra freedom to innovate. Charters are accountable to authorizing entities for student achievement. Charter schools can share the fruits of their innovation with traditional classrooms. If there are more families seeking admittance to a charter school than there are seats, a lottery system is usually used to determine admittance.

New York’s first charter school opened in 1999; today, there are 260 charter schools in New York City serving more than 126,000 students.

New York Magnet Schools

Magnet schools are free public schools that allow kids to narrow in on a specific learning track, such as an International Baccalaureate program or the performing arts. At a magnet school, all the subjects are taught through the lenses of that specific track. New York has several magnet schools throughout the state; if there is one near you with a theme that interests your child, it could be a great option to consider.

New York Private Schools

New York has a plethora of private schools, nonpublic schools that charge tuition. One of the private schools we recently spoke to, The Learning Tree Cultural Preparatory School, offers students an award-winning drumming program and takes eighth-graders on international trips each year. “Our philosophy is that inner-city children should be able to experience anything that other children experience,” says founder Lois Gregory.

While there are no state-run scholarship options in New York, many private schools, such as The Learning Tree Cultural Preparatory School, work with scholarship-granting organizations to keep tuition affordable for all families who are interested.

Read the story of another unique New York private school, Houghton Academy, here.

New York Online Learning

Online learning is sometimes overlooked, but it 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. While most states offer a free, full-time online learning program, New York does not currently do so. However, paid online options are available.

New York Homeschooling

Homeschooling is another school option in all 50 states. Homeschooling is the process of parents educating students at home. 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 about homeschooling specific to New York.

Education Resources for New York Parents

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

New York Students celebrate school choice

School Choice Celebrations in New York

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 York celebrated National School Choice Week 2020 with a record-breaking 2,423 events and activities across the state. Click the button below to learn more about school choice in New York.

Visit State Page


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