School Choice

In North Carolina, there are several choices when considering your child’s education. There are traditional public schools, public charter schools, magnet schools, private schools, and homeschooling. When considering the best fit for your child and family, it is important to understand the difference between these options.  School choice is often talked about this time of year because lotteries are currently open for the 2017-2018 school year for charter and magnet schools.

Most everyone is familiar with traditional public schools. It is where most of us went to school!  Typically, this will be your “homeschool” meaning the public school that is assigned to your neighborhood.  It could be close by or your child’s assigned school may require busing to a different area.   If you wanted to have your child attend a different traditional public school (other than the one to which your child is assigned) sometimes you are able to submit a letter of request or fill out a school choice application.  However, it is difficult to move to a different traditional public unless the decision is made by the staff at your child’s school.  For example, if your child has special needs and the Team Who Is On Your Child’s Team? decides your child requires a specialized program offered at a specific traditional public, then your child may be moved to that school.

Public charter schools are a relatively new option. It is important to understand these schools are PUBLIC schools. They must follow the Common Core and provide regular and special education programs. They receive federal and state money to fund their schools. Charter schools receive an allotment for each child in their school. Just like traditional public schools, charter schools also receive money for children with special needs. Charter schools can be started by anyone. There is an extensive application that must be filled out and approved by NC DPI. Charter schools have a mission that is unique to their school. When considering this option, it is important to know the school’s mission, who started the school and why, and who is head of the school. You should ask yourself if your family is philosophically aligned with the school’s mission. Most teachers and staff at the school wear many hats and are a part of many committees.  If you are considering a public charter school for your child,  you must fill out the school’s registration form and students are admitted based on a lottery system.  North Carolina does like to try to keep families together, therefore, siblings do have priority in a public charter school in the lottery system.  Lotteries for public charter schools are currently open and typically close by late January or early February.  If this is an option for your child, be sure to check the deadline for entering your child into the school’s lottery with each school you are considering.

Magnet schools are similar to charter schools except that they are managed by a typical school district. They also have a lottery system that students must be entered into.  Here is a link to visit CMS (Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools) information about their magnet schools http://www.cms.k12.nc.us/cmsdepartments/ci/MagnetPrograms/Pages/default.aspx  We recommend researching the magnet schools in your district if this is an option for your child.

Private schools do not receive public funds and do not have to follow the special education laws such as IDEA. They do, however, have to follow ADA (American’s with Disabilities Act) guidelines.  There is a registration process and tuition payment that will be unique for each private school.  If your child has an IEP or 504, private schools typically do not follow them and have yearly meetings since they do not take public money.  However, it is common for certain private schools to make accommodations that are needed for your child’s unique needs.  If this is an option for your family, make sure you meet with the director or administration of the school and ask specific questions to see if it is a good fit for your child’s needs. Here is a link which explains how children with disabilities can receive services if they are in a private school. https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/choosing-starting-school/finding-right-school/6-things-to-know-about-private-schools-and-special-education

Homeschools have grown and continue to grow yearly.  If you choose to homeschool your child, you must register as a homeschool with the state of North Carolina.  Here is a link for more information http://ncadmin.nc.gov/citizens/home-school-information.  You need to keep attendance records for your child and have one standardized test completed each year.  There are a lot of homeschooling groups you can join as well as classes to sign your child up for to offer enrichment and different experiences.  If you are in the Charlotte area, we recommend checking out Discovery Place’s homeschool classes https://science.discoveryplace.org/programs-and-classes/homeschool-classes, Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden’s homeschool classes http://www.dsbg.org/homeschool-days/, and Latta Plantation homeschool classes http://www.lattaplantation.org/homeschool-days/.  There are also discounts for ski days http://skifrenchswiss.com/homeschool-days-pd-48.php , classes you can sign up for through churches, and co-ops you can join.  Making connections within the homeschool realm makes organizing and navigating the curriculum and connections easier.

With Appreciation,

Christina and Wendy

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