Roadmap for School Choice in California

Select a school. You have choices.

Each spring, parents must choose one of the most important choices for their child’s future: where will their child spend the next year’s around 1,000 school hours?

Knowing your possibilities will help you make that choice with confidence; there may be more options for schools than you think. Finding a school where your child can develop and learn to the best of their abilities can be made easier by being aware of your alternatives. Keep in mind that every child is special. As a result, the “best” school for your child could not be the same as the “best” school for your neighbor’s child. That’s alright!

Traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online academies, homeschooling, and learning pods are all options in California.

Traditional Public Schools in California

To start, the majority of kids in California attend regular public schools. All students are welcome to attend traditional public schools, which are run by school districts and supported by money from taxpayers like you. In California, each public school student receives an annual average of $14,031.

Open enrollment, which refers to whether a state permits parents to send their children to schools outside of their district, is a crucial aspect of public school choice. According to the state’s restricted open enrollment legislation, parents of students allocated to low-performing schools in California may be eligible to move their kids to a different school. Parents can inquire with their local district to learn more about open enrollment policies since school districts in California are also free to set up their own. For instance, the William S. Hart Union High School District only permits transfers for a select set of students, such as bullied students, foster children, and dependents of serving members of the armed forces.

Parents have the option to seek transportation assistance from the school they choose through open enrollment.

There may be differences in the missions and cultures of various public schools. For instance, Sonia Flores, the principal of California’s Dr. TJ Owens Gilroy Early College Academy, one of the top 50 public high schools in the nation, was the subject of a recent interview. While the school does assist all students, she explained that one of its unique missions is to aid “students who are the first in their family to attend college or students who come from a low-income background who face obstacles that prevent them from succeeding in a comprehensive high school setting.”

California Charter Schools

The second tuition-free option available to Californian families is through charter schools. Charter schools are public, free, and typically have no entrance restrictions, just like traditional public schools. Charter schools stand out because they have more latitude to experiment with new teaching strategies. Public charter schools must also report their accomplishments to the organizations that gave them permission, like colleges or school districts.

In 1994, San Carlos saw the opening of California’s first charter school. Currently, one in nine public school pupils in California attends charter schools. This school directory lists the roughly 1,000 charter schools in the state. Each chapter has a distinct purpose and aspires to play a particular role in the neighborhood. This might involve offering a demanding literacy program or a STEAM program, for instance. Granada Hills Charter School, one of California’s biggest charter schools, serves children from 60 different nations who collectively speak more than 40 different languages, as we discovered when we spoke with the executive director of the school.

California Magnet Schools

You can also be able to select a magnet school in California, depending on where you live. Children can concentrate on particular topics, including science or the performing arts, in these free public schools. A magnet school may be a good fit if your child learns best by delving deeply into a subject they are passionate about.

In California, there are at least 400 magnet schools or programs for the 2022 academic year. The ABC Unified School District, Glendale Unified School District, Los Angeles Unified School District, Napa Valley Unified School District, Pasadena Unified School District, San Diego Unified School District, and Vista Unified School District are among the districts that have magnet schools. In 2022, a brand-new magnet program in downtown Los Angeles is set to launch with advice from George Clooney and other prominent Hollywood figures. Students will be prepared by the school for careers in the entertainment sector.

Private Schools in California

Additionally, you can think about private schools, which are not public and demand fees. In California, there are roughly 3,675 private schools that provide families with distinctive learning settings. Private schools could be, for example, religious schools, nonsectarian Montessori schools, or schools for kids with learning disabilities. We heard from a teacher who assisted her students in publishing books at Valley View Adventist Academy, one of the private schools we spoke with.

The average cost of private school tuition in the state is $21,220 for high schools and $14,810 for elementary schools. The cost of tuition can vary greatly and in some situations be significantly less. Unfortunately, there are presently no state-funded scholarships available in California to assist families in paying the tuition for private schools. There can be privately run scholarships available.

Online Learning in California

Although there isn’t a state-run virtual school in California, kids have access to a number of free, 24/7 online learning opportunities. In California, a totally online institution is only permitted to accept students from neighboring counties, not the entire state. In order to accommodate students from all throughout the state, several education management corporations run many online schools. California Virtual Academies and California Connections Academy are two of the largest of these online school “networks.”

Every student in California has access to a completely online education thanks to the more than 30 online charter schools in the state. A free online option for children in more than a dozen California counties is California Pacific Charter Schools. kids in southern California are served through Method Online School, and kids in Los Angeles, Yolo, San Diego, and nearby areas are served by Compass Charter Schools.

IQ Academy-Los Angeles is an option for K–12 students in the counties of Ventura, San Bernardino, Kern, and Orange. Although a lot of the learning is supported by technology, this learning program also provides in-person meetups and field trips. Insight Schools of California may be a good option for students in grades 9 through 12 who need extra help with their academics to get through challenges.

Furthermore, a few districts have established their own online educational institutions, such as Davis School for Independent Study and Vista Virtual Academy. Students who live in the district or have been transferred from another district may apply. During the 2021–2022 academic year, the Virtual Academy of the Los Angeles Unified School District served over 18,000 students. Six new theme-based online schools were developed by the district for the 2022–2023 academic year in response to the demand for online options. Each online program has a distinct specialty, such as leadership and public service or computer science.

You might also want to try the Scout Program at the University of California, which enables high school students to enroll in part-time online courses and receive credit in exchange for a fee. Visit California Parents for Public Virtual Education and the state profile of the Digital Learning Collaborative to learn more about online education in California.

California Home Education

Another option is homeschooling, which involves parents instructing their children at home. If you are homeschooling at a home-based private school in California, the state needs notice of your intention to do so between October 1 and October 15 of every year. It is advised that you formally resign from your current school in order to prevent having your student listed as truant.

If you decide to homeschool, you must teach the same subjects as are taught in public schools, but you are not obligated to administer any particularly standardized tests. In California, homeschooled children may encounter difficulties if they want to participate in public school sports or extracurricular activities, although there may be other sports leagues that they can join.

If you choose to homeschool in California through a charter homeschool program, financial aid can be available. For additional information on homeschooling specifically in California, visit the California Homeschool Network and the Home School Legal Defense Association – California.

The Cox Family, a Californian family that discovered that homeschooling was the best option for one of their three children, was a family we recently spoke to. For your child to succeed academically, you must find the proper kind of school and atmosphere for them to flourish in, as mom Erica Cox put it: “If you want your kid to be a successful student, you need to find the right sort of school and environment for them to thrive in. Never presume that something will work for everyone just because it worked for one [student].

Pods for Californian Learning

The terms “micro-schools,” “pods,” “pandemic pods,” and “learning pods” all relate to the same idea: a small group of kids coming together under the supervision of an adult to learn, explore, and socialize. In general, pods can be divided into two categories: learning support pods and self-directed pods (homeschool, homeschool collaborative, or micro-school). Pods themselves can assume a variety of legal forms. It’s critical to comprehend the type of pod you are enrolling in and its associated criteria. Study up on learning pods.

Self-Directed Pods:

In California, your learning pod or micro-school probably qualifies as a homeschool if each family is in charge of their own children’s education and the group selects its own curriculum. Get advice from HSLDA and read more about the prerequisites for homeschooling.

Your learning pod can be considered a private school if it has more than two families and will have parents or other teachers teaching special lessons designed exclusively for your school. You can find out more information about what is considered a private school in California, how they are governed, and how to start one.

Learning Support Pods:

You do not need to register as a homeschool or private school if your child is enrolled in an existing online school or a local public, charter, or private school and uses that school’s curriculum while being watched over by an adult in a learning pod.

For the 2022–2023 academic year, KaiPod Learning is expanding its locations in California and providing learning assistance pods to both homeschoolers and kids enrolled in authorized virtual schools.

Read More:

Rights Of Parents in Public Schools in California

Best School Districts in California

Differences Between Public and Private Schools in California

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