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 Oklahoma and make a choice, you can do it! And remember, each child is unique. So, the “best” school for your neighbor’s child may be different than the “best” school for your child.
A great starting point for choosing a school is knowing your options, and this post will break down the main learning environments in Oklahoma. In short, you can choose from traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online learning, homeschooling, and microschooling and mix-and-match learning.
Interested in learning more about Oklahoma’s Parental Choice Tax Credit? Check out our deep dive blog on the Oklahoma Parental Choice Tax Credit Act!
- Traditional Public Schools
- Public Charter Schools
- Public Magnet Schools
- Private Schools
- Online Schools
Oklahoma Traditional Public Schools
First off, most Oklahoma families choose traditional public schools, which are operated by school districts, free to attend, open to all students, and funded by taxpayers. Did you know that Oklahoma spends $10,498 per public school student each year? You can search your school’s spending and that of nearby schools at Project Nickel.
Open enrollment refers to whether parents can send their children to any public school, regardless of where it is located. In Oklahoma, students can request a transfer to a school in any district, regardless of where they live. What’s more, public school districts cannot charge students tuition. The state does allow districts to set capacity limits for transfer students, and sometimes spots are only available in certain grades. For an example of what the open enrollment process may look like, check out Norman Public Schools’ transfer guidelines. If their transfer request is denied, parents can appeal to the local school board to review the case.
If parents request it, their children can be transported by the public school of choice from a stop within that school’s district, provided parents transport them to the district route. Alternatively, the assigned school district can create an agreement with the new school district to cooperate on transportation. For parents in Oklahoma who want to know more about open enrollment in their local district, Every Kid Counts Oklahoma offers a comprehensive list of guidelines and key information that may be helpful in your search.
Open enrollment is an important form of public school choice, widening parents’ options and ensuring that zip code isn’t the sole determiner of their education. You may want to learn more about public schools at the Oklahoma State Department of Education. You can also learn more about open enrollment at “Public Schools Without Boundaries: A 50-State Ranking.”
Oklahoma Charter Schools
Secondly, Oklahoma families can currently choose from about 60 public charter schools. Like traditional public schools, charter schools are public, free, and typically have no requirements for entry. What distinguishes charter schools is that they have extra freedom to innovate with curriculum and learning methods and are accountable to authorizing bodies for results.
In the late 1990s, Oklahoma passed a bill allowing charter schools to be authorized by school districts in Tulsa and Oklahoma counties. Today, charters can be authorized by any school district and are available in many parts of Oklahoma.
Each school has a charter which explains the school’s purpose and what specific community need it serves. For example, that might be providing a Spanish immersion program or offering a rigorous, literacy-based curriculum. One of the state’s newest charters is Tulsa Classical Academy, which offers an American classical education and character formation for Tulsa students in grades K-8.
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.
You can learn more at the Oklahoma Public Charter School Association.
Oklahoma Magnet Schools
Depending on where you live, you can also choose magnet schools. These free public schools allow kids to focus on a specific learning track, such as engineering or the arts. Magnet schools teach all subjects through the lenses of that one track. Oklahoma has several magnet schools scattered throughout the state, and these might be a good option if your child learns best by focusing on a subject they are passionate about. For example, districts with magnet schools or programs include Oklahoma City Public Schools, Muskogee Public Schools, Tulsa Public Schools, and more. You can contact your school district to see if there are any options near you.
Oklahoma Private Schools
Additionally, Oklahoma’s private schools offer unique learning environments that may include smaller class sizes, a specific religious tradition, or a different curriculum than is available in your district school. There are more than 200 private schools across the state of Oklahoma.
However, Oklahoma students in certain underperforming schools or who meet certain income guidelines (income at or less than $154,014 for a family of four in 2022-2023) can qualify for state-run scholarship programs. And, students with disabilities may be eligible for the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship. If you think a private school may be best for your child, you can always ask if other funding is available through private sources.
Plus, in 2023, lawmakers passed the Oklahoma Parental Tax Credit Act. Starting December 6, 2023, all students enrolling in an accredited private school can apply for a refundable income tax credit. The credit will cover $5,000-$7,500 of private school tuition costs, with families earning less than $150,000 receiving first priority. You can find all the details in our full explainer.
Learn more at Private School Review: Oklahoma.
Oklahoma Online Learning
Don’t overlook virtual education! It can offer a uniquely flexible learning environment that meets a variety of family needs. Maybe your child wants to accelerate learning or maybe your child needs a quieter, stress-free environment to focus in. Whatever the case, you may be interested in trying online learning.
Oklahoma currently offers seven fully online public charter schools for students: Oklahoma Virtual Charter Academy, Oklahoma Connections Academy, Epic Charter School, Insight School of Oklahoma (grades 6-12), E-School Virtual Charter Academy, Dove Virtual Academy (grades 6-10), and Virtual Prep Academy (grades K-8). These schools are authorized by the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board and served nearly 40,000 students in 2020-2021. Additionally, a free, Catholic online school may be opening in 2024: St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School.
Certain districts offer their own online choices for local families, such as Tulsa Virtual Academy, Oklahoma City Public Schools’ Online Learning, Virtual Edmond, and Moore Virtual Academy. Plus, part-time supplemental online courses may be available through the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University.
Remember, virtual school is different and it can feel like “drinking from a fire hose” at first. But, for some families, it becomes the perfect fit. Learn more about all of Oklahoma’s online options at the Oklahoma Virtual Charter School Board and the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.
You can also choose homeschooling in all 50 states. Homeschooling is the process of parents educating students at home and allows for high levels of customized learning and flexibility.
In Oklahoma, it is not required to send notice of your intent to homeschool to the state or your local school. However, it is recommended that you formally withdraw from your current school so your student is not marked truant. In the case that you decide to return to public school, your student may be required to complete a standardized test for placement.
The state does not define specific required subjects that homeschooling parents must teach, and does not require standardized testing for homeschoolers. In general, children who are homeschooled may face roadblocks if they want to participate in public school sports or activities in Oklahoma. But you can look for other sports leagues and co-ops near you!
Oklahoma offers limited funding assistance for homeschool families if you are enrolled via a virtual charter. Also, in 2023, lawmakers passed the Oklahoma Parental Tax Credit Act. Once this new tax credit program launches in January 2024, all homeschool students can apply for a refundable income tax credit. The credit will cover $1,000 of qualified learning expenses, including private online learning courses, academic tutoring, textbooks, curriculum, and instructional material, or fees for nationally standardized tests.
Read a great how-to about homeschooling in Oklahoma. You can also learn more at the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s homeschooling page and Homeschool Oklahoma.
Oklahoma Microschools and Mix-and-Match Learning
K-12 education has changed a lot over the past few years! Today, many Oklahoma families are mixing and matching various school options to come up with new ways to personalize education. Microschools are one of these ways. A microschool refers to students gathering together in a small group – with adult supervision – to learn, explore, and socialize. Microschools can take a variety of shapes and legal forms, from homeschoolers coming together at an enrichment center to a private school committed to small classrooms. What microschools share in common is a commitment to small-group learning and close-knit relationships, along with an emphasis on children as individual learners.
Here are real examples of microschools and related resources in your state:
- Edupreneur Academy offers a free guide for parents interested in learning pods in Oklahoma.
- Revise Collective MicroSchool is a “modern learning studio” serving grades 6-12. The microschool also offers virtual, homeschool, tutoring and afterschool offerings.
- Encompass Foundation for Exceptional Learning is a microschool for families seeking a full-time homeschool social learning environment for their children in Broken Arrow.
- Cimarron School of Living Education in Edmund is a Charlotte Mason school combining homeschooling and private schooling. Students learn two days a week at the school and three days a week at home.
- Once Oklahoma’s new Parental Tax Credit Act program launches in January 2024, all private and homeschool students can apply for a refundable income tax credit.
Remember, microschooling is more a mentality than a specific legal distinction in most cases. Often, a family participates in a microschool while legally homeschooling, or being enrolled in a private or online school.
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