A Primer on School Choices

Understanding local educational terms

As families consider their kids’ educational options, there are a number of terms you may come across in the process that are new to you or that you’ve wondered about. We explain some of those most frequently asked-about terms here:

Charter Schools

The term “charter school” is most often used to denote a public charter school, which is a publicly-funded, privately-run educational institution offering an alternative to traditional public and private schools.

Like public schools, charter schools are funded by tax dollars and are subject to a performance review every three to five years. Created in 1992 under a law that allows them to receive public funding, charter schools are open to the public.

Home School

Michigan law allows home schooling, which means that a child’s parents or legal guardian can educate the child at home in an organized educational program in the subject areas of reading, spelling, mathematics, science, history, civics, literature, writing, and English grammar.

Home schooling is regulated at the state level, and if a family chooses to home school, they will be under the authority of the Michigan Department of Education. Always consult the state code, available at michigan.gov/mde, for the most accurate legal information about home schooling.


An acronym for the Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency, KRESA is a central coordinating organization that provides support and services to improve student achievement to nine area school districts and four charter schools. KRESA provides a wide spectrum of services including early intervention and childhood education programs, special education services, and Education for Employment and Education for the Arts programs in local high schools. KRESA is governed by its own superintendent and Board of Education.

Private Schools

Private schools, also known as independent schools, are not administered by local, state or federal governments and have the right to select their students. Private schools often follow a particular educational philosophy or viewpoint, with most private schools in the U.S. operated by religious organizations. Private schools generate their own funding, which can come from tuition, grants, fundraising, and funding from organizations or private individuals.

Public Schools

The vast majority of Kalamazoo County students attend one of the area’s public schools. Financed through federal, state and local taxes, public schools are part of a larger school system, which functions as a part of the government and must follow the rules and regulations set by the government.

Schools of Choice

The Schools of Choice law provides families more choice in selecting a public school to attend. The Schools of Choice law has two options, referred to as Section 105 and Section 105c.

Under Section 105, districts can accept students who live in other school districts but are within the same intermediate school district that the district is in (called intra-district choice). This also includes the opportunity for students to move from one school to another within the boundaries of an individual school district, provided there are available seats.

Under Section 105c, school districts can accept non-resident students who live in counties that border the school district or Intermediate School District that the district falls under (called inter-district choice).

School districts can choose whether or not to participate in Schools of Choice. In Kalamazoo County, most of the districts abide by a countywide non-compete agreement restricting individual districts’ participation in Schools of Choice.

Check with individual school districts and schools to determine their level of participation in Schools of Choice.

Virtual Schooling

Virtual schooling delivers educational content online with certified teachers and a set curriculum that allows students to attend school from home. Many school districts offer virtual schooling options and there are private virtual schools, such as the Michigan Virtual School (mvhs@mivu.org), which offers middle and high school courses online for a fee. Virtual schools are held to the same accreditation and regulations as traditional public schools.

The information provided above is not intended to be legal advice and is distributed for information purposes only. For more information on these topics and education options in Michigan, check the Michigan State Department of Education’s page at michigan.gov/mde.


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