Oklahoma School Choice Roadmap

By: National School Choice Week Team

Last Upated: January 19, 2023

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 academies, homeschooling, and learning pods.

Looking for special education options? You can learn what special education services are available in Oklahoma at the Ultimate Guide to Special Education.

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Traditional public schools do not charge tuition. They are managed by school districts and do not require students to pass tests to enroll.
Public charter schools do not charge tuition. They are usually managed by nonprofit organizations and do not require students to pass tests to enroll.
Public magnet schools do not charge tuition. They are managed by school districts and focus on themes, such as math, science, technology, and the arts.
Private schools charge tuition, but scholarships are often available via state programs or by individual schools. Private schools are privately managed and can be faith-based or secular.

      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 $9,508 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. 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.

      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.

      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. 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.

      Private schools do charge tuition. The average tuition for private schools in the state is $6,626 for elementary schools and $7,623 for high schools.

      Also, Oklahoma students in certain underperforming schools or who meet certain income guidelines (income at or less than $147,075 for a family of four in 2021-2022) can qualify for state-run scholarship programs. 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 also ask if other funding is available through private sources. 

      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 six fully online public charter schools for students: Oklahoma Virtual Charter Academy, Oklahoma Connections AcademyEpic Charter SchoolInsight School of Oklahoma (grades 6-12), E-School Virtual Charter Academy and Oklahoma Information and Technology School (grades 6-7). These schools are authorized by the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board and served nearly 40,000 students in 2020-2021. More online options may be on the way – additional online charter schools have applied to open.

      Certain districts offer their own online choices for local families, such as Tulsa Virtual AcademyOklahoma City Public Schools’ Online LearningVirtual Edmond, and Moore Virtual Academy. Plus, part-time supplemental online courses may be available through your public school via the Oklahoma Supplemental Online Course Program. 

      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.

      Oklahoma Homeschooling

      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 charter.

      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 Learning Pods

      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.

      Self-Directed 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 Oklahoma. Read more about the requirements for homeschooling and get tips from HSLDA.

      If your learning pod contains more than two families and will have parents or other teachers leading unique classes just for your school, it may qualify as a private school. You can read more about what Oklahoma classifies as a private school, how they’re regulated, and how to start one.

      Learning Support Pods:

      If your child is enrolled in an existing online school or local public, charter, or private school, and uses that school’s curriculum under the supervision of an adult in a learning pod, you do not need to register as a homeschool or private school. 

      Edupreneur Academy offers a free guide for parents interested in learning pods in Oklahoma.

      students perform to celebrate school choice in Oklahoma

      Education Resources for Oklahoma Parents 

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


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