Traditional Public Schools

By: National School Choice Week Team

The majority of American children attend traditional public schools. Traditional public schools are established by school districts and are available for children in all 50 states. These schools do not charge tuition. As you can find out below, open enrollment policies in many states make it possible for parents to choose traditional public schools that are outside of their zone or district!

public-school-building-graphic

 
   

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What is Public School Open Enrollment? 

Open enrollment is an important form of public school choice. In short, open enrollment allows parents to choose public schools outside of their assigned neighborhood. By giving families access to more free schools, open enrollment helps families find a good fit for their child. It ensures that zip code isn’t the sole determiner of a student’s education.

Each state has different open enrollment laws for public school. As of 2019, a total of 33 states and the District of Columbia allow students to attend other traditional public schools within their assigned district, called intradistrict enrollment. And 43 states allow students to attend public schools outside their district—interdistrict enrollment. (Some states allow both options.)

If open enrollment is available to you, you can take advantage of it by visiting multiple public schools 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.

Traditional public school students work on robotics

 

Public School Options in Your State

Do you have open enrollment? Check out your state’s parent guide or scroll below to learn whether your state has some form of open enrollment. If it does, you can follow up with your local district to learn about what open enrollment means for you. 

In 9 states parents may select any traditional public school for their child, in any school district. In 18 states, open enrollment is available but is subject to restrictions or limitations. An additional 19 states have allowed districts and schools to decide whether to participate in open enrollment.

Traditional public school NSCW

Source: Education Commission of the States, 2019
Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming
 
 

Alabama:

In most states, families have some “open enrollment” options for public school, but Alabama does not offer open enrollment. What this means is that Alabama does not allow parents to choose traditional public schools outside of the schools assigned to their children by their districts. If you choose a traditional public school, it will likely need to be the school assigned by your district.

Find out more about public schools in your state: Alabama’s Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in Alabama public schools: $10,386.

 

Alaska:

Alaska has limited open enrollment laws for public schools. What this means is that parents of students who are assigned to a particular neighborhood school may in some cases be able to transfer their children to another school in their district. In other cases, children may be required to attend the school assigned to them by their district. Contact your school district to learn more. 

Find out more about public schools in your state: Alaska’s Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in Alaska public schools: $17,872.

 

Arizona:

Arizona has unrestricted open enrollment for public school. What this means is that you can send your child to any public school in Arizona, 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. 

Find out more about public schools in your state: Arizona’s Department of Education and Office of the Governor – School Choice

Average per-pupil spending in Arizona public schools: $8,335

 

Arkansas:

In Arkansas, the state has limited open enrollment laws. “Open enrollment” refers to whether parents are allowed to send their child to any public school, regardless of where it is located. In Arkansas, there are some limits on open enrollment, but families may be able to transfer to a public school beyond their neighborhood school. If you would like to participate in open enrollment, contact your local district.

Find out more: Arkansas’ Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in Arkansas public schools: $11,951

 

California:

In California, parents of students assigned to low-performing schools may be able to transfer their children to another school based on the state’s limited open enrollment laws. School districts in California can also set their own open enrollment policies, so parents can check with their local district to learn more. 

Find out more about public schools in your state: California’s Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in California public schools: $10, 281

 

Colorado:

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

Find out more about public schools in your state: Colorado’s Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in Colorado:  $10,053

 

Connecticut:

Connecticut has restricted open enrollment for public school. What this means is that parents in some Connecticut cities may be able to choose traditional public schools outside of their districts. If you would like to participate in open enrollment, contact your local district for more information. If you live in an area of Connecticut with open enrollment, you can take advantage of this option by visiting multiple public schools near you and discovering which is the best fit for your family.

Find out more about public schools in your state: Connecticut’s Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in Connecticut: $17,798

 

Delaware:

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

Find out more about public schools in your state: Delaware’s Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in Delaware: $15,009

 

Florida:

Florida has unrestricted open enrollment for public school. What this means is that you can send your child to any public school in Florida, regardless of where you live or where the school is located. 

Find out more about public schools in your state: Florida’s Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in Florida: $9,764

 

Georgia:

Georgia has restricted open enrollment for public school. What this means is that Georgia families can send their child to any public school within their school district. In some cases, families can also consider public schools outside their school district; contact your local school district to learn more.

Find out more about public schools in your state: Georgia’s Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in Georgia: $10,114

 

Hawaii:

In Hawaii, the school district system is divided into 15 “complex areas.” Hawaii parents should contact their district about its open enrollment policies, and whether they can consider schools outside their assigned area.

Find out more about public schools in your state: Hawaii’s Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in Hawaii: $14,254  

 

Idaho:

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

Find out more about public schools in your state: Idaho’s Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in Idaho: $8,677

 

Illinois: 

Illinois has fairly flexible open enrollment laws. In many cases, you can visit multiple schools and select the one best for you. Illinois parents may be able to choose any traditional public school within their district but should check with their local district to find out more. 

Find out more about public schools in your state: Illinois’ Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in Illinois: $13,829

 

Indiana:

Each state has its own open enrollment rules. Open enrollment refers to whether parents can send their children to any public school, regardless of where it is located. In Indiana, parents have restricted open enrollment; so, students can request to transfer to any public school of their choice, provided the school has a policy allowing for open enrollment. If you would like to participate in open enrollment, contact your local district to learn more. 

Find out more about public schools in your state: Indiana’s Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in Indiana: $11,626 

 

Iowa:

Iowa has restricted open enrollment for public school. Based on Iowa’s laws, a parent may be able to choose a traditional public school in another district. If this is an option for you, you can visit multiple public schools in your area and discover which best fits your family.

Find out more about public schools in your state: Iowa’s Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in Iowa:  $13,241

 

Kansas:

Some school districts in Kansas may allow open enrollment.  Since districts set their own open enrollment polices in Kansas, parents should check with their local school district for more information.

Find out more about public schools in your state: Kansas Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in Kansas:  $11,753

                                                      

Kentucky:

Kentucky has restricted open enrollment for public school. What this means is that you may be able to choose to send your child to a public school other than the one you have been assigned. If you would like to participate in open enrollment, contact your local district to learn more. 

Find out more about public schools in your state: Kentucky’s Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in Kentucky:  $11,210

 

Louisiana:

In most cases in Louisiana, each district decides whether it will participate in open enrollment. Louisiana parents should check with their local school district if they wish to participate in open enrollment. 

Find out more about public schools in your state: Louisiana’s Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in Louisiana:  $12,362

 

Maine:

Maine has restricted open enrollment for public school. In Maine, the state allows districts to set their own open enrollment policies. So, Maine parents should check with their district if they would like to transfer their child to a different public school. 

Find out more about public schools in your state: Maine’s Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in Maine:  $16,006

 

Maryland:

Most states have some form of open enrollment. Unfortunately, Maryland does not currently have public open enrollment at this time.

Find out more about public schools in your state: Maryland’s Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in Maryland:  $13,146

 

Massachusetts:

In Massachusetts, each district decides whether it will participate in open enrollment. If you are interested in transferring your child to a different public school than you are assigned, you should talk to your local school district to learn whether it is available for you. 

Find out more about public schools in your state: Massachusetts’ Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in Massachusetts: $14,529

 

Michigan:

Some states have unrestricted open enrollment, which means that you can send your child to any public school, regardless of where you live or where the school is located. In Michigan, there is restricted open enrollment. Depending on the district and their school’s performance, parents may have the option to transfer their child to a different public school.

Find out more about public schools in your state: Michigan’s Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in Michigan: $13,016

 

Minnesota:

Minnesota has fairly flexible open enrollment, which refers to whether a parent can choose to send their child to a public school other than their assigned district school. In Minnesota, parents may be able to choose a traditional public school in another district.

Find out more about public schools in your state: Minnesota’s Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in Minnesota: $13,068

 

Mississippi:

In Mississippi, the state allows each district to set its own open enrollment policies; the state only requires districts to offer open enrollment if parents live 30 miles away from their child’s assigned school. 

Find out more about public schools in your state: Mississippi’s Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in Mississippi:  $10,240  

 

Missouri:

In Missouri, parents have restricted open enrollment. Some Missouri parents, such as those who live in school districts that have lost state accreditation, may be able to choose any traditional public school in another district for their child.

Find out more about public schools in your state: Missouri’s Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in Missouri: $11,756

 

Montana:

In Montana, the state allows each district to set its own open enrollment policies; the state only requires districts to offer open enrollment if parents live too far from their child’s assigned school. Open enrollment refers to whether parents can choose to send their children to any public school, regardless of where it is located. Montana parents should check with their local school district if they wish to participate in open enrollment.

Find out more about public schools in your state: Montana’s Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in Montana: $14,229

 

Nebraska:

Nebraska has unrestricted open enrollment for public schools. What this means is that you can send your child to any public school in Nebraska, 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.

Find out more about public schools in your state: Nebraska’s Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in Nebraska: $14,385

 

Nevada:

Each state has 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. In Nevada, each district sets its own open enrollment policies. So, Nevada parents should check with their local district if they would like to transfer their child. 

Find out more about public schools in your state: Nevada’s Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in Nevada: $9,185

 

New Hampshire:

In New Hampshire, 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. New Hampshire 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. 

Find out more about public schools in your state: New Hampshire’s Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in New Hampshire:  $16,347

 

New Jersey:

In New Jersey, the state allows each district decides to set its own open enrollment policies. New Jersey 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 for them. 

Find out more about public schools in your state: New Jersey’s Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in New Jersey:  $16,543

 

New Mexico:

New Mexico has restricted open enrollment. In New Mexico, parents who live near low-performing schools may transfer their children to another school inside or outside their district. Parents in other circumstances should check with their local school district.

Find out more about public schools in your state: New Mexico’s Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in New Mexico:  $10,754  

 

New York:

In New York, each district decides whether it will participate in open enrollment. Open enrollment is a valuable choice that refers to whether parents can send their children to any public school, regardless of where it is located or what their zip code is. If you would like to participate in open enrollment, check with your local school district to see if this is available. 

Find out more about public schools in your state: New York Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in New York:  $19,697

 

North Carolina:

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. Unfortunately, North Carolina does not currently have open enrollment for public schools

Find out more about public schools in your state: North Carolina’s Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in North Carolina:  $9,367

 

North Dakota:

In North Dakota, the state allows each district decides to set its own open enrollment policies. North Dakota 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. 

Find out more about public schools in your state: North Dakota Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in North Dakota: $14,381

 

Ohio:

Ohio has restricted open enrollment for public school. Based on Ohio’s laws, a parent may or may not be able to choose a traditional public school in another district. Check with your local school district if you wish to participate in open enrollment.

Find out more about public schools in your state: Ohio Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in Ohio: $13,051

 

Oklahoma:

In Oklahoma, the state allows each district decides to set its own open enrollment policies. Oklahoma parents wanting to transfer their child to a different public school should contact their local school district to see if this is an option.

Find out more about public schools in your state: Oklahoma’s Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in Oklahoma: $9,250

 

Oregon:

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.

Find out more about public schools in your state: Oregon’s Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in Oregon: $11,905

 

Pennsylvania:

In Pennsylvania, 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. Pennsylvania parents wanting to transfer their child to a different public school than the one they are assigned should contact their local school district.

Find out more about public schools in your state: Pennsylvania’s Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in Pennsylvania: $16,122

 

Rhode Island:

In Rhode Island, the state allows each district decides to set its own open enrollment policies. Rhode Island 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.

Find out more about public schools in your state: Rhode Island’s Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in Rhode Island: $15,320

 

South Carolina:

In South Carolina, the state allows each district decides to set its own open enrollment policies. 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. 

Find out more about public schools in your state: South Carolina’s Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in South Carolina: $11,564

 

South Dakota:

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. 

Find out more about public schools in your state: South Dakota’s Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in South Dakota $11,430

 

Tennessee:

In Tennessee, the state allows each district decides to set its own open enrollment policies. 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. 

Find out more about public schools in your state: Tennessee’s Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in Tennessee: $9,694

 

Texas:

In Texas, the state allows each district decides to set its own open enrollment policies. 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. 

Find out more about public schools in your state: Texas’ Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in Texas:  $8,619 

 

Utah:

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. 

Find out more about public schools in your state: Utah’s Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in Utah:  $7,635

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.

 

Vermont:

Vermont has unrestricted open enrollment for public school. What this means is that you can send your child to any public school in Vermont, regardless of where you live or where the school is located.

Find out more about public schools in your state: Vermont’s Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in Vermont:  $20,540

 

Virginia:

In Virginia, the state allows each district decides to set its own open enrollment policies. Parents wanting to transfer their child to a different public school should contact their local school district to see if this is possible. 

Find out more about public schools in your state: Virginia’s Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in Virginia: $10,530

 

Washington:

Washington has restricted open enrollment for public school. Based on Washington’s laws, a parent may or may not be able to choose a traditional public school in another district. Check with your local school district if you wish to participate in open enrollment.

Find out more about public schools in your state: Washington’s Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in Washington: $11,125

 

West Virginia:

In West Virginia, 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. Open enrollment is an important way that parents have access to a broader variety of public schools; if you would like to participate in open enrollment, contact your school district to learn if this is an option available to you. 

Find out more about public schools in your state: West Virginia Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in West Virginia: $12,915

 

Wisconsin:

Wisconsin has restricted open enrollment for public school. Based on Wisconsin’s laws, a parent may or may not be able to choose a traditional public school in another district. Check with your local school district if you wish to participate in open enrollment. 

Find out more about public schools in your state: Wisconsin’s Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in Wisconsin: $12,558

 

Wyoming:

In Wyoming, the state allows each district decides to set its own open enrollment policies. 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.

Find out more about public schools in your state: Wyoming’s Department of Education

Average per-pupil spending in Wyoming: $18,090

 

Shareable Facts about Public School

Traditional public school Open Enrollment in USA

Traditional Public Schools Celebrate Choice

Check out these stories from our archives about outstanding traditional public schools: 

Burbank Middle School

 

“Teachers that come from another school or another campus… they go through a culture shock here…”

 

 

 

“From the time students come to our campus, they know that they are ambassadors…”

 

 

Coyote Springs Elementary School

 

“In our fifth grade, every child was given the opportunity to go fly an airplane. Not because you scored a certain number on a test, but because we believe that every child should have the opportunity…”

 

 

The information in this guide to traditional public school is designed to help families who are considering public schooling in their decision-making process. Our mission is to provide families with the information they need about all the school options available – traditional public, public charter, public magnet, private, online, and at home – so they can choose the right fit for their child. For more guides about choosing other types of schools, click here.

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