Guide to School Choice in Ohio

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

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Ohio Traditional Public Schools

First off, you can choose traditional public school. Traditional public schools are free to attend, open to all students, operated by school districts, and funded by taxpayers like you. Ohio spends, on average, $13,051 per public school student each year. 

Ohio has restricted open enrollment for public school. Open enrollment refers to whether parents can choose to send their child to any public school in Ohio, regardless of their zip code or the location of the school. Based on Ohio’s laws, a parent may or may not be able to choose a traditional public school in another district. 

Check with your local school district if you wish to participate in open enrollment. If this is an option for you, you can visit multiple public schools in your area and discover which best fits 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. 

Ohio Charter Schools

Charter schools are tuition-free public schools that have extra freedom to innovate with curriculum and learning methods. In Ohio these schools are commonly referred to as “Community Schools.” Community schools or charter schools have been allowed in Ohio since 1997. Today there are more than 350 such schools. 

Each community school or public charter school has a charter explaining the school’s purpose and what community need it serves. That could be providing a technical track or offering a rigorous, literacy-based curriculum. If there are more families seeking admittance to a charter school than there are seats, a charter school usually uses a lottery system to randomly determine admittance. 

We talked to Dr. Landon Brown, principal at Emerson Academy, who shared how invested his charter school teachers and staff are in the local community.  “Current research suggests that urban students (particularly minority males) need to see teachers outside of the classroom environment first before they make a connection inside the classroom,” Brown said. “That old educational adage is true, ‘Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care!’”

Ohio Magnet Schools

Magnet schools are free public schools. They allow kids to zoom 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. Ohio has several magnet schools scattered throughout the state. These might be a good option if your kid learns best by focusing in on a subject he or she is passionate about! Read more about magnet schools in the Cincinnati Public Schools district here. 

Ohio Private Schools

Ohio families can also choose private schools! These learning environments may pass on a faith tradition, have a distinctive curriculum, or offer a personalized classroom environment. Private schools are nonpublic schools that charge tuition. Ohio offers state-run scholarship programs for students with autism spectrum disorders, students assigned to underperforming schools, and students in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. Also, effective in 2018, the federal government allows parents to save for K-12 private school tuition using tax-preferred 529 savings accounts.

Ohio Online Learning

Whether your child wants to accelerate learning or needs a quieter environment, you may be interested in trying virtual school. Students in elementary through high school grades may enroll full-time or part-time in courses through Northwest Ohio Virtual Academy at no cost, but they must register through a school district. Other free, full-time online learning options are also available, such as Ohio Virtual Academy and Ohio Connections Academy

Ohio Homeschooling

Homeschooling is another choice available to Ohio families. Homeschooling is the process of parents educating students at home and is permitted 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 and here for resources about homeschooling specific to Ohio. 

students in scarves celebrate school choice in Ohio

Education Resources for Ohio Parents 

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

School Choice Celebrations in Ohio 

National School Choice Week 2020 will take place January 26 – February 1, 2020. We encourage all parents and schools to sign up for a free box of NSCW supplies for 2020 celebrations. Click here for more information.

Ohio celebrated National School Choice Week 2019 with a record-breaking 1,728 events and activities across the state.

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