Guide to School Choice in South Carolina

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

No time to read it all now? Enter your email address and we’ll send you a cheat sheet that you can print and share.

South Carolina Traditional Public Schools

Most South Carolina 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, on average, South Carolina spends $11,564 per public school student each year? 

In South Carolina, the state allows each district decides to set its own open enrollment policies. “Open enrollment” refers to whether parents can send their children to any public school, regardless of where it is located. South Carolina parents wanting to transfer their child to a different public school than the one they are assigned should contact their local school district to see if this is an option. Open enrollment is an important way that parents can access more public school choices. 

South Carolina Charter Schools

South Carolina families can choose from more than 75 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 are have extra freedom to innovate with learning methods and 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. 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. 

At one South carolina charter school we talked to, a guidance counselor founded a Boys’ Leadership Academy program to encourage students to give back to the community. 

South Carolina Magnet Schools

You can also choose from 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. 

Dr. Michael Lofton, founder of South Carolina’s Spring Hill High School, gave us this example of how a magnet school works: “As a class works through a math unit, a teacher at [a magnet school]l will embed a project-based learning activity that relates to that class of students’ interests. That helps to hook the students into the math component. We find that by doing this, the kids study it deeper. No matter where they go to school, they’re going to take Algebra 2 before they graduate. Our program just has more project-based learning experiences that the kids get while they’re learning their curriculum. They really tend to delve a little bit deeper into study if they enjoy it more and it’s something that they want to relate to.” 

We also interviewed the head of school at America’s top-ranked public high school, Academic Magnet High School, here

South Carolina has several magnet schools scattered throughout the state, and these might be a good option if your child learns best by focusing in on a subject they are passionate about. 

South Carolina Private Schools

Families in South Carolina 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. South Carolina’s private schools come in all shapes and forms. South Carolina students with disabilities may qualify for a state-run scholarship program. Additional funding may be available from other sources.

South Carolina Online Learning

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. South Carolina offers several free, full-time online learning options for students, like South Carolina Virtual Charter School, and South Carolina Connections Academy.  In addition, public, private, and homeschooled students in grades 7-12 in South Carolina can enroll in tuition-free online classes through Virtual SC. VirtualSC recommends taking a maximum of four classes at a time, and does not award diplomas.

South Carolina Homeschooling

South Carolina 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 and here for resources about homeschooling specific to South Carolina. 

Education Resources for South Carolina Parents 

For additional information about school choice in South Carolina, visit these resources: 

School Choice Celebrations in South Carolina

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! 

South Carolina celebrated National School Choice Week 2020 with a record-breaking 1,049 events and activities across the state. Click the button below to learn more about school choice in South Carolina.

Visit State Page


No time to read it all now? Enter your email address and we’ll send you a cheat sheet that you can print and share.

Sign-Up for email Updates

"Shining a spotlight on effective educational options for every child"