State: Minnesota

Minnesota State Guide

Choosing a school? You’ve got options.

If you’re wondering about school choice in Minnesota, here are two things to remember. First off, you’re not alone. Every year, tens of thousands of parents in Minnesota make K-12 school decisions for their children. Secondly, you can do it! Understanding your state’s different school choices 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 short, you can choose from traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online learning, homeschooling, and microschooling and mix-and-match learning.

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

Minnesota Traditional Public Schools

Most Minnesota (78.3%) students attend traditional public schools. Traditional public schools are free to attend. They are open to all students, operated by school districts, and funded by taxpayers like federal, state, and local government. Did you know that Minnesota spends an average of $14,378 per public school student each year? You can search your school’s spending and that of nearby schools at Project Nickel.

Public school open enrollment refers to whether a parent can choose to send their child to a public school other than their assigned district school. In Minnesota, parents can choose a traditional public school that is outside of their district based on the state’s open enrollment laws, and may be able to choose another school within their district, depending on their local school board. In the 2020-2021 school year, about 10% of Minnesota students used open enrollment! 

Since no two public schools are exactly the same, open enrollment can valuably extend a family’s educational options and help them find the best match for their child. If you are interested in this choice, note that transfer applications are usually due by mid-January for the following fall. In most transfers to schools in a different district, the receiving school district provides transportation once the student is within the district border, and can reimburse income-eligible students for their travel there. Minnesota districts are not permitted to charge tuition for transfer students.

Find out more about public schools and transfers in your state at the Minnesota Department of Education or “Public Schools Without Boundaries: A 50-State Ranking.”

Minnesota Charter Schools

You can also consider charter schools. In Minnesota there are about 250 charter schools serving 65,000 children. That’s about 7.1% of the K-12 student population. The majority of charter schools are located in the greater Twin Cities metro area, but there are charters across the state.

Like traditional public schools, charter schools are public, free, and usually have no requirements for entry. What distinguishes charter schools is that they 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. For example, that could be providing a Spanish immersion program or offering a rigorous STEAM curriculum. One of the state’s newest charters, Surad Academy in the immigrant town of Faribault, is modeled after a highly successful school in Africa. 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. 

For instance, one charter school executive director we talked to told us about the Core Knowledge curriculum that is part of her school’s charter. “A Core Knowledge school gives kids information through oral telling, through experience, and we add on to their knowledge all the time,” described Lynn Peterson of Cologne Academy. 

Learn more about Minnesota charter schools at the MN Association of Charter Schools.

Minnesota 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. So, these might be a good option if there’s one near you with a theme that interests your child. 

Minnesota has more than 75 magnet schools throughout the state serving about 7.1% of the K-12 student population. For example, some of the districts with magnet schools or programs include Anoka-Hennepin School District #11, Brooklyn Center Community Schools, Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose Schools, District 196: Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan, Independent School District 197, Minneapolis Public Schools, Northwest Suburban Integration District, and Osseo Area Schools ISD 279.

One example of Minnesota’s magnet school offerings is American Indian Magnet School in St. Paul, which provides learning rooted in American Indian culture and history. Meanwhile, Salk Middle School in Elk River has a pre-engineering STEM focus, and was recently recognized as a National Magnet School of Excellence. Plus, a brand new Minnesota magnet school this year is East African Magnet School, an elementary school focused on East African cultures and languages. 

Minnesota Private Schools

You can also choose private school! Minnesota families can choose the unique environment of a private school, which may pass on a religious tradition, use a specific curriculum, or offer a smaller classroom environment.

There are more than 600 private schools across the state of Minnesota serving 8.1% of the K-12 student population. The average tuition for private schools in the state is $7,181 for elementary schools and $13,360 for high schools.

While private schools do charge tuition, Minnesota parents are eligible for tax deductions on educational expenses, including private school tuition payments. Minnesota has an additional K-12 Education Credit program that families under a certain income may be eligible to apply for.

Learn more at the Minnesota Independent School Forum, the Minnesota Catholic Conference, and Private School Review: Minnesota.

Minnesota Online Learning

Whether your child wants to accelerate learning or needs a quieter environment, you may be interested in trying virtual school. Minnesota has more online options than most states! Any student who lives in Minnesota, even if they have permanent residency elsewhere, can attend a full-time online school free of charge. For instance, students in any grade can do this through Minnesota Connections Academy (a charter school program and the largest online public school in the state), Minnesota Virtual Academy (which serves about 1,800 students across the state), 196Online, 279Online, SoWashCo Online, Tonka Online, Eden Prairie OnlineSaint Paul Public Schools OnlineNew Code Academy, One91 Virtual Academy5Rivers OnlineEdina Virtual Pathway, or Minnesota Public Schools Online. Some of these statewide options are charter schools, while some are district-run schools that accept out-of-district students. For a full list of statewide options serving all grades, see the Department of Education’s website.

Besides online schools serving all grades, there are additional online options for students in specific grades. For example, students in grades K-8 can choose Cologne Academy Online, a public charter school with a Core Knowledge focus. Another option is Insight School of Minnesota, which specializes in helping struggling students in grades 6-12 catch up and achieve academic success. IQ Academy of Minnesota also serves students in grades 6-12. Keep in mind that, in order for the funding to follow a student who switches to online school, the family must fill out a Statewide Enrollment Options form. 

Finally, free part-time online options are available for students enrolled in public schools (including charter schools), and paid part-time options are available for nonpublic school students.

To read more about online learning in Minnesota, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

Minnesota Homeschooling

Homeschooling is another school option; this is a great option if you are looking for a hands-on, highly-customizable approach to your child’s education. Homeschooling is the process of parents educating students at home and is permitted in all 50 states.

In Minnesota, 2.8% of all K-12 students are homeschooled. notice of your intent to homeschool is required by October 1 or within 15 days of withdrawing. It is required that you formally withdraw from your public school. In the case that you decide to return to public school, the school will place your student based on evaluation of their records.

The state requires homeschooling families to teach specific subjects (like reading, writing, math, and science) and also requires some level of assessment of students. In some cases, Minnesota homeschoolers may still be eligible to participate in sports or activities at local public schools.

Minnesota offers some funding assistance through a tax deduction program to help with costs related to instruction, field trips, and parental time. To learn more about homeschooling, you may also be interested in checking out the Minnesota Homeschoolers’ Alliance, Home School Legal Defense Association – Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Education’s Homeschooling page, and Minnesota Association of Christian Home Educators.

Minnesota Microschools and Mix-and-Match Learning

Today, many Minnesota families are mixing and matching school options to come up with new ways to personalize education. Microschools are one of these ways. A microschool refers to students gathering together in a small group – with adult supervision – to learn, explore, and socialize. Microschools can take a variety of shapes and legal forms, from homeschoolers coming together at an enrichment center to a private school committed to small classrooms. What microschools share in common is a commitment to small-group learning and close-knit relationships, along with an emphasis on children as individual learners. 

For example, here are a few real examples of microschools and related resources in your state:  

There are at least eight Wildflower Montessori microschools in Minnesota.

Founded by a teacher, Skola is a Christian microschool with a flexible schedule, emphasis on the outdoors, and values-based education. 

Awakening Spirit Homeschool Collaborative seeks to be an individualized, all-inclusive, educational environment for gifted children and their families.

The Gathering Learning Studio offers learning pods with a focus on small group learning, career exploration, and skill development in a faith-infused environment.

An example of a Learning Support Group that ran during the pandemic was Hope Youth Center, which provided full-time distance learners with tech, tutors, snacks, mental health support, and more.

Remember, microschooling is more a mentality than a specific legal distinction in most cases. Often, a family participates in a microschool while legally homeschooling, or being enrolled in a private or online school. 

Download the School Choice Snapshot for Minnesota

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What is School Choice

How can it empower parents and help kids achieve their dreams?

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Choosing the Right School

Tips to help you find a school where your daughter or son will learn, succeed, and be happy.

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Search for Schools Near Me

School Type
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.
Grade Levels

Microschooling and Mix-and-Match Learning

How can it empower parents and help kids achieve their dreams?

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7 Step Guide

Tips to help you find a school where your daughter or son will learn, succeed, and be happy.

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Landmarks Across America Shine for School Choice Week 2024!

Did you witness the magic of National School Choice Week 2024? Starting January 21st, close to three dozen landmarks and notable buildings from Alaska to New York lit up in dazzling shades of yellow and red and created a vibrant celebration of K-12 education opportunities!

Alaska

JL Tower in Anchorage, Alaska

January 21-27, 2024

Anchorage

Arkansas

Junction Bridge in Little Rock, Arkansas

January 26, 2024

Little Rock

Main Street Bridge in Little Rock, Arkansas

January 26, 2024

Little Rock

Union Plaza in Little Rock, Arkansas

January 21-27, 2024

Little Rock

California

“M” at Box Springs Mountain in Moreno Valley, California

January 26, 2024

Moreno Valley

Union Station in Los Angeles, California

January 21-27, 2024

Los Angeles

Florida

Las Olas Centre in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

January 21-27, 2024

Fort Lauderdale

Platt Street Bridge in Tampa, Florida

January 22, 2024

Tampa

Kennedy Blvd Bridge in Tampa, Florida

January 22, 2024

Tampa

Old City Hall in Tampa, Florida

January 22, 2024

Tampa

Georgia

One Atlantic Center in Atlanta, Georgia

January 22, 2024

Atlanta

Hawaii

Aloha Tower in Honolulu, Hawaii

January 21-27, 2024

Honolulu

Idaho

8th and Main Tower in Boise, Idaho

January 21-27, 2024

Boise

Illinois

The Wrigley Building in Chicago, Illinois

January 25, 2024

Chicago

Willis Tower in Chicago, Illinois

January 21, 2024

Chicago

Indiana

AES Building in Indianapolis, Indiana

January 21, 2024

Indianapolis

Louisiana

Old State Capitol in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

January 21-27, 2024

Baton Rouge

State Capitol in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

January 21-27, 2024

Baton Rouge

The Governors Mansion in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

January 21-27, 2024

Baton Rouge

Minnesota

Lowry Avenue Bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota

January 26, 2024

Minneapolis

Missouri

Waldo Water Tower in Kansas City, Missouri

January 21-27, 2024

Kansas City

Nebraska

Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge in Omaha, Nebraska

January 23, 2024

Omaha

New York

Peace Bridge in Buffalo, New York

January 24, 2024

Buffalo

North Carolina

550 South Tryon Tower in Charlotte, North Carolina

January 27, 2024

Charlotte

Ohio

Dublin Link Bridge in Dublin, Ohio

January 26, 2024

Dublin

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio

January 21-27, 2024

Cleveland

Oklahoma

Choctaw Casino and Resort in Durant, Oklahoma

January 21-27, 2024

Durant

SkyDance Bridge in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

January 25, 2024

Oklahoma City

Oregon

Salem Convention Center in Salem, Oregon

January 20, 2024

Salem

Pennsylvania

The Symphony House Condo in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

January 26, 2024

Philadelphia

Koppers Building in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

January 24, 2024

Pittsburgh

Gulf Tower in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

January 24, 2024

Pittsburgh

South Carolina

Governor’s Mansion in Columbia, South Carolina

January 21-27, 2024

Columbia

Washington

Columbia Town Center in Seattle, Washington

January 23, 2024

Seattle

Wyoming

Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center in Laramie, Wyoming

January 23, 2024 

Laramie

If you know of a building in your community that would light up for National School Choice Week, please reach out to our team! Send us an email.

For journalists covering the Week, more information and resources to enhance your coverage on a variety of platforms can be found on our media resources page. For families interested in discovering more about the different school choice options available in their home state please visit your state page for a detailed roadmap.

National School Choice Week (NSCW) informs, inspires, and empowers parents to discover the K-12 education options available for their children, including traditional public, charter, magnet, online, private, and homeschooling.

Every January, tens of thousands of schools, organizations, and individuals plan unique events and activities to shine a positive spotlight on effective education options in their communities.  The Week is a project of the nonpartisan, nonpolitical National School Choice Awareness Foundation.