School choice in California

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School choice refers to the educational alternatives available to parents who do not wish to send their children to the local district public school to which they are assigned. Public school choice options include open enrollment policies, magnet schools and charter schools. Other options include traditional school vouchers, scholarship tax credits, personal tax credits and deductions and Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), which allow parents to receive public funds directly for educational expenses.[1][2]

School choice options in California include: charter schools, online learning programs and open enrollment policies. In addition, about 9.00 percent of school age children in the state attended private schools in the 2011-12 academic year, and an estimated 2.67 percent were homeschooled in 2012-13.

Educational choice options

See also: Number of schools by school type in the U.S.

Charter schools

The California Department of Education defines charter schools as "public schools that may provide instruction in any of grades K-12 that are created or organized by a group of teachers, parents, community leaders or a community-based organization." According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, 1,065 charter schools were operating in California in the 2012-13 academic year. During that time, charter schools enrolled 470,578 students.[3][4][5]

Charter school authorizers are, according to the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), the organizations "designated to approve, monitor, renew, and, if necessary, close charter schools." As of June 2014, the following organizations were listed by NACSA as charter school authorizers in California:[6]

School vouchers and tax credits

The state offers neither school vouchers nor individual or corporate tax credits. According to the Institute for Justice, "Tax credits are California’s best option for school choice. Vouchers are problematic given California’s very restrictive interpretation of its Blaine Amendments. That interpretation prevents any public body from the state down to the local school board from allowing any public money from any source whatsoever to go to a religious or private school. California courts have explicitly rejected the distinction between aiding students versus aiding schools."[7]

Online learning

According to Keeping Pace with K-12 Online and Blended Learning, California "has more districts and charter schools recognized for incorporating online or blended learning than any other state." The state does not sponsor a state-led virtual school and students can only access supplemental online learning programs if they are offered by their district or a district partner. According to the California Department of Education, there are more than 70 charter schools and district programs that "deliver at least 30 percent of their instruction online."[8]

Private schools

In the 2011-12 school year, 558,227 students, or 9.00 percent of school age children, were enrolled in 3,238 private schools. California ranks 26th highest in the nation in private school attendance.[9]

Public school open enrollment

According to the Education Commission of the States, California has both intra-district/mandatory and inter-district/voluntary open enrollment policies.[10]


In California in 2012-2013 an estimated 178,695 students, or 2.67 percent of the total student-aged population, were homeschooled.[11]

A summary of the state's laws relating to homeschooling can be accessed here.

School choice ballot measures

See also: School choice on the ballot and List of California ballot measures

Ballotpedia has tracked 2 statewide ballot measures relating to school choice.

  1. California Proposition 174, School Vouchers (1993)
  2. California Proposition 38, School Vouchers (2000)

Recent news

This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the term "California + Education + Choice"

All stories may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of the search engine.

California School Choice News Feed

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