Choosing a school: Know the options for your child
At a Glance
In addition to your neighborhood school, there may be other public school options for your child.
All public schools — including magnets and charters — are free and must provide special education services.
Some private schools are specifically for kids with learning and thinking differences.
Your local public school is close by and probably where most of the kids in your neighborhood go. But it isn’t the only option. There are many different types of schools out there, public and private. There are even schools that specialize in helping kids with learning and thinking differences.
Learn more about options for your child when choosing a school.
Neighborhood public schools
The local public school is close to home. It’s free and lots of neighborhood kids go there. It also has some important benefits for kids with learning and thinking differences. These include:
Researching schools in your local area? Use the
GreatSchools ratings tool to learn about and find a local school that best serves your child’s needs.
Magnet schools are specialized public schools within your local school district. Because they’re part of the public schools, they’re free to attend. And your child can still get
an IEP or a 504 plan
if eligible. Other possible advantages of a magnet school include:
Focus on a specific area your child may be passionate about or strong in, like math and science or the arts
Access to special education services and specialists in the school district
Keep in mind, however:
Applications are often required, and it can get competitive.
Waiting lists may be long because of high demand and limited enrollment.
Your child may need to travel if the magnet school is far from your home.
Magnets have fewer neighborhood kids, which may make it harder to make friends.
Charter schools are independent public schools run by nonprofit groups, private companies, or community organizations. They are free to attend. And they exist in most states, although there may not be one near where you live.
These schools are run by private organizations, outside of the public schools. A private school can give you a lot of choice over the kind of school environment your child is in. But you have to pay for tuition, and it can be expensive.
Independent schools for students with learning and thinking differences
Some private schools specialize in teaching students with learning and thinking differences. They typically offer your child more comprehensive and individualized support, but tuition can be high. However, sometimes a state or public school district will
pay the cost of private school
if a child can’t get an appropriate education in the public schools.
Choosing a school is a personal decision for your family. As you decide, it’s important you consider the level of support your child needs. Even within a public or private school, there may be other options, like