Guide to School Choice in South Dakota

By: National School Choice Week Team

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 South Dakota and make a choice, you can do it! The best starting point for choosing a good school fit is knowing your options. This post will break down the main learning environments available in your state. In South Dakota, families can choose from traditional public schools, private schools, online academies, and homeschooling.

While not currently options in South Dakota, most other states also offer families public charter schools and public magnet schools

South Dakota celebrates school choice week

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South Dakota Traditional Public Schools

Most South Dakota families choose traditional public school for their child. Traditional public schools are operated by school districts, free to attend, open to all students, and funded by taxpayers. Did you know that, on average, South Dakota spends $11,430 per public school student each year? 

South Dakota has unrestricted open enrollment for public school. What this means is that you can send your child to any public school in South Dakota, regardless of where you live or where the school is located. You can take advantage of this option by visiting multiple public schools near you and discovering which is the best fit for 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. 

South Dakota Charter Schools

South Dakota is one of only five states that have not yet passed laws allowing public charter schools. Charter schools are public schools that are allowed the freedom to innovate while being held accountable for student achievement. Charter schools are tuition-free public schools that have extra freedom to innovate. They are accountable to an authorizing entity for student achievement. The school’s charter describes what unique community need the school seeks to fill, and the school may be authorized by a governing body, a college, or a school board. 

While South Dakota families cannot yet choose public charters, this may be an option in the future. 

South Dakota Magnet Schools

Magnet schools are free public schools that allow kids to narrow in on a specific learning track, such as an International Baccalaureate program or the performing arts. Magnet schools teach all subjects through the lenses of that specific track. If your child learns well through diving deeply into a particular subject, a magnet school could be a good fit. 

South Dakota does not currently have any magnet schools, but this may be an option in the future. 

South Dakota Private Schools

Families can also choose private school. South Dakota’s private schools are nonpublic schools that charge tuition and have more freedom in the curricula and structure of learning environment.  Private schools may offer a unique curriculum, smaller class sizes, or a faith-based tradition.

South Dakota families with income below certain thresholds may qualify for a state-run scholarship program. Additional funding may be available from other sources. Effective in 2018, the federal government allows parents to save for K-12 private school tuition using tax-preferred 529 savings accounts. 

South Dakota Online Learning

Don’t overlook online learning! It offers a uniquely flexible learning environment that meets a variety of family needs. 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. 

We were unable to find a free full-time online school option in South Dakota, but paid options are available. In addition, the South Dakota Virtual School, in conjunction with the state Department of Education, offers a list of approved providers for part-time courses. Fees may apply.

South Dakota Homeschooling

South Dakota 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; all 50 states allow it. Check here for details about homeschooling specific to South Dakota. 

Education Resources for South Dakota Parents 

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

South Dakota celebrates school choice week 

School Choice Celebrations in South Dakota

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 Dakota celebrated National School Choice Week 2020 with a record-breaking 97 events and activities across the state. Click the button below to learn more about school choice in South Dakota.

Visit State Page


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