What is School Choice?
School choice means giving parents the power to select the best educational environments for their children. National School Choice Week celebrates all of the K – 12 education options that parents can choose – or want to be able to choose – for their kids. These options include:
- Traditional public schools
- Public charter schools
- Public magnet schools
- Private schools
- Online academies
National School Choice Week does not prefer one type of choice above another. Instead, we believe that parents themselves are best qualified to make decisions for their children.
Traditional Public Schools and Open Enrollment:
Open enrollment and traditional public schools are established by school districts and are available for children in all 50 states. These schools do not charge tuition. Open enrollment policies make it possible for parents to choose traditional public schools that are outside of their zone or district. 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 20 states have allowed districts and schools to decide whether to participate in open enrollment.
Source: Education Commission of the States, 2019
Public Charter Schools
Charter schools are public schools that are created by school districts, colleges, nonprofit organizations, or other entities. Charter schools are allowed to determine many of their own policies and practices. Charter schools are always public schools and they are not allowed to charge tuition. There are currently more than 7,000 charter schools in the U.S. serving more than 3.2 million children. As shown on this map, 45 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws allowing for the creation of public charter schools. The number of students in charter schools has more than doubled in the last 10 years.
Source: National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, 2019
Magnet schools are public schools that are operated by school districts or groups of school districts. Magnet schools are free to attend and have a focused theme or aligned curriculum, such as science, math, or the arts. There are more than 4,300 magnet schools across the country serving 3.5 million children. In addition, there are thousands of magnet programs within traditional public schools nationwide. Magnet schools, theme-based schools, or magnet programs are permitted in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. In some states, as indicated on the map below, there are no freestanding magnet schools, but there are magnet programs available in traditional public schools.
Source: Magnet Schools of America, 2019
Private School Choice
Private schools are available in all 50 states. Private schools charge tuition and may be faith-based or independent. Many private schools and nonprofit organizations offer scholarships for students. In addition, 29 states offer official programs that provide scholarships or tuition assistance for families. Of these states, 21 states offer official scholarship programs, 7 states offer both scholarship and deduction programs, and 1 state offers only a deduction program.
*Availability of scholarships and deductions varies by state. Please check with a local or state-based school choice organization for details.
Source: EdChoice, 2019
Online Learning and Course Access
Virtual academies instruct students through online or digital curricula. In 32 states, online public schools have been established by state authorities, by school districts, or charter schools, meaning students can attend these schools full-time, tuition-free. In addition, 35 states offer part-time online public schooling through course access, which allows students to use online coursework to supplement their education with specific classes. In many states, this is accessible, and sometimes even free, for private school or homeschooled students.
Source: Evergreen Education Group and independent research by the NSCW team
Homeschooling is the process of parents educating children in the home, and many families choose to collaborate via tutorials, co-operatives, and extracurricular leagues to enhance the home education experience. Enrollment in homeschool programs has nearly doubled from 1999 (0.9 million) to 2016 (1.7 million). More than 2 million children – or 3 percent of the American student population – are educated in the home. As shown on this map, all states permit parents to educate their children in the home.
Source: National Center for Education Statistics, 2019