Utah School Choice Roadmap

By: National School Choice Week Team

Last Upated: January 28, 2023

Choosing a school? You’ve got options. 

Wondering about school choice in Utah? There are a variety of options available for Utah families. Knowing these options can help you find a learning environment where your child is not just “getting by” at school, but actually thriving and inspired to learn. 

In Utah, families 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 Utah 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.

      Utah Traditional Public Schools

      Many Utah 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, Utah spends $8,366 per public school student each year? You can search your school’s spending and that of nearby schools at Project Nickel.

      Utah has unrestricted open enrollment for public school. What this means is that you can send your child to any public school in Utah, regardless of where you live or where the school is located. For a real-world example of the application process and deadlines, check out Salt Lake City School Districts’ open enrollment guidelines.

      Generally, parents are responsible for transportation to the public school of their choice or to a stop on the district’s bus route. In some cases, the previously assigned school will provide transportation if they are trying to relieve overcrowding.

      You can take advantage of open enrollment 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. You may want to learn more about public schools at the Utah State Board of Education.

      Parents, educators, and community members can find education-related data about public schools (such as student proficiency and student growth rates) at Utah State Board of Education’s Data Gateway.

      Utah Charter Schools

      Charter schools are tuition-free public schools that have extra freedom to innovate with curriculum and learning methods. Utah has more than 130 charter schools that parents can choose from; check out a map of charter schools.

      Each school has a charter that explains the school’s purpose and what specific community need it serves. For instance, that could be providing a Mandarin 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 is usually used to determine admittance. Charter schools are held accountable to authorizing bodies for student achievement. 

      You can learn more from The Utah Association of Public Charter Schools. You can also read frequently asked questions about charter schools at the Utah State Board of Education, one of the authorizers for charter schools in your state.

      Parents, educators, and community members can find education-related data about public schools (such as student proficiency and student growth rates) at Utah State Board of Education’s Data Gateway.

      Utah Magnet Schools

      Families can also choose magnet schools; these are free public schools that allow kids to narrow in on a specific learning track, such as engineering or the performing arts. Magnet schools teach all subjects through the lenses of that specific track. If there is one near you with a theme that interests your child, this could be an exciting school choice to consider. In Utah, the Ogden School District has some magnet programs, such as a gifted and talented program and a space science program. Salt Lake City School District also offers some magnet extended learning programs. Plus, Washington County School District is currently in the process of building a new magnet high school for career and technical education.

      Parents, educators, and community members can find education-related data about public schools (such as student proficiency and student growth rates) at Utah State Board of Education’s Data Gateway.

      Utah Private Schools

      Utah families can also choose private schools. These nonpublic schools charge tuition and offer a unique learning environment that may be smaller in size, pass on a specific religious tradition, or provide a different curriculum than is available in your district school. 

      There are more than 170 private schools across the state of Utah. The average tuition for private schools in the state is $11,007 for elementary schools and $13,324 for high schools.

      In January of 2023, Gov. Cox signed legislation that establishes the Utah Fits All Scholarship Program, which will provide participating families with education savings accounts starting in the 24-25 school year. Families can use the funds in these accounts for tuition, supplies, therapy, tutoring, transportation, and more.

      In Utah, there are two state-run scholarship programs to help children with special needs access private school: The Carson Smith Special Needs Scholarship Program and the Special Needs Opportunity Scholarship program. Additional funding may be available from other sources.

      Learn more at Private School Review: Utah.

      Utah Online Learning

      Additionally, 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. 

      All Utah students, grades K-12, can enroll full-time or part-time in online courses through Utah Online School. All courses are tuition-free. Other free online learning options are also available, such as Utah Connections Academy and Utah Virtual Academy. Moreover, Utah’s My Tech High partners with public schools to offer a full-time, personalized, distance education program for students ages 5 to 18.

      Mountain Heights Academy is another free online public option for students in grades 7-12. The school is the first secondary school in the country to create and publicly release its own curriculum as an “open educational resource” freely available for anyone’s use. 

      Additionally, a number of Utah school districts have developed their own online school programs, some of which may be options even for out-of-district students

      You can also check out Utah’s Statewide Online Education Program, which allows 7th-12th grade students regularly enrolled in public, private, or homeschool to enroll in up to six online course credits per academic year. The program gathers approved online courses to make it easy for families to access courses not available at their regular school. 

      More than 23,000 students enrolled in fully online schools in Utah for fall of 2021. Parents, educators, and community members can find education-related data about all public schools, including online public schools, at Utah State Board of Education’s Data Gateway. To read more about online learning in Utah, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

      Utah Homeschooling

      Utah 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 all 50 states allow it.

      In Utah, it is required that you provide a notarized homeschool affidavit prior to starting homeschool. It is also recommended that you formally withdraw your student from their public school so they are not marked truant. 

      The state does not define specific subjects that homeschooling parents must teach, and does not require standardized testing for homeschoolers. Note that homeschooled students in Utah may still be eligible to participate in sports, activities, or classes at local public schools.

      You can learn more at the Utah State Board of Education’s Homeschooling page, the Utah Home Education AssociationHome School Legal Defense Association – Utah, and Utah Christian Home School Association.

      Utah 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 Utah. 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 Utah 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. 

      Education Resources for Utah Parents 

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


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