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Choosing a School

Choices in Education

For parents and students alike, the type of education available within their community is critically important. Many people, in fact, choose the communities in which they live on the basis of the quality of the local schools. Some parents choose to send their children to public school, believing that public education provides a more well-rounded experience for children. Others feel that private education offers students a more varied and creative course of study. Those who wish to instill within their children a sense of their religion may choose religious (often called parochial) schools; these schools provide religious instruction along with the general academic program.

Many school districts have charter and magnet schools, which are free and publicly funded but may offer radically different classroom experiences. In recent years, a growing number of parents have turned to homeschooling, which they feel allows them more control over what and how their children learn.

Each system has its advantages and drawbacks; choosing the best system is determined by a number of considerations. For example, a child who lives in an affluent community with a well-respected public school system will likely want to take advantage of this free education. A child in a poorer community, or one who needs more individualized attention, may fare better in a private school, where classes are smaller and teachers can focus more fully on specific issues. Children in small rural communities, who may have to travel dozens of miles to go to school, may profit more by being home-schooled, or they may be able to hook up to schools online through distance learning programs. How a child is educated depends on his or her abilities and needs, the expectations of parents, and the available choices.

Choice of School through No Child Left Behind

In addition to the options that exist in any school district, No Child Left Behind (NCLB) may require your school district to transport your child to a new school district. If your school district has failed to make adequate yearly progress, or is considered unsafe, the school district is required to work with you to send your child to a better school.

The school district is required to notify parents that they are eligible for transfer no later than the first school day. Charter schools and distance learning programs are valid options for transfer under NCLB. School districts are required to give priority to low income and under achieving students for transfer.

Choice of School through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) guarantees that every student receives a free appropriate public education, or FAPE. For many students with disabilities, the school and parents are able to work together to create an individualized education plan (IEP) that adequately addresses a student's needs using their local school resources. However, some students have disabilities that make it too difficult for school districts to accommodate the student. In these cases, the school district may pay for students to attend a private or charter school that are better able to teach the student and prepare her for life after high school.

For more information, see FindLaw's sections on Compulsory Education or Curriculum Standards and Funding.

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