Deciding where to send your child to school is a big decision (no pressure)! Fortunately, you’re not alone. Thousands of Oregon parents are making K-12 education decisions each year. 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.
In Oregon, you have access to more K-12 education options than you might realize. Navigating these options can help you find a great school for your child. In short, the six types of schools you can choose from are traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online academies, and homeschooling.
Most children in Oregon attend traditional public schools. Traditional public schools are free, open to all students, operated by districts, and funded by taxpayers like you. On average, Oregon spends $11,905 per public school student each year.
Most states have some form of open enrollment, which refers to whether parents can send their child to a public school other than their assigned school. This is an important choice, widening parents’ options and ensuring that their zip code isn’t the sole determiner of their education. Unfortunately, Oregon does not have open enrollment for public schools. If you choose a traditional public school, it will most likely need to be the school assigned by your district.
Oregon families can currently choose from more than 120 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. Charters are accountable to authorizing bodies for results.
Each school has a charter which explains the school’s purpose and what specific community need it serves. For instance, that might be offering a Spanish immersion program or 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.
Recently we talked to an Oregon public charter school with a dual enrollment program, Baker Early College. “The whole point of the early college is if a student is ready to go to college while they’re in high school, we want to facilitate and make that happen,” described superintendent Daniel Huld. “Our students complete all of their classes at the local community colleges. In the case of eastern Oregon, we actually have students going to Eastern Oregon University.”
You can also choose magnet schools! Magnet schools are free public schools that allow kids to narrow 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. Oregon has several magnet schools scattered throughout the state. If there is one near you with a theme that interests your child, this could be an exciting choice to consider.
Families in Oregon can also consider private schools, nonpublic schools that charge tuition. Private schools may offer a unique curriculum, smaller class sizes, or a faith-based tradition. Oregon’s private schools come in all shapes and forms, from religious schools to schools designed for children with special needs. Unfortunately, there are no state-run scholarship options in Oregon at present, but private scholarships may be available. Also, effective in 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 his or her learning or needs a quieter environment in which to focus, you may be interested in giving virtual school a try. Oregon offers several free, full-time online learning options for students, like Oregon Connections Academy and Oregon Virtual Academy. For students in rural areas, the Oregon Digital Learning Academy provides part-time supplemental courses online, at no charge to students.
Oregon families can also choose to homeschool, which allows for high levels of customized learning and flexibility. Homeschooling is the process of parents educating students at home and is permitted in all 50 states. Check here for resources about homeschooling specific to Oregon.
For additional information about school choices in Oregon, visit these resources:
National School Choice Week 2020 will be held from January 26 – February 1, 2020. We encourage all schools, homeschool groups, organizations and individuals to sign up to receive a free box of NSCW supplies for celebrations in 2020. Click here for more information.
Oregon celebrated National School Choice Week 2019 with a record-breaking 328 events and activities across the state.
"Shining a spotlight on effective educational options for every child"