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Select a Choice Option to Begin

School Choice in

Washington, D.C.

The District of Columbia offers K–12 students and their families several types of school choice, including one private school choice program, charter schools, magnet schools, home schooling and intra-district public school choice.

Explore Other States

Private School Choice

The District of Columbia has one private school choice program, a school voucher that helps some families afford to send their children to participating private schools.

Washington, D.C. Program List

Public School Choice

The District of Columbia allows some parents to transfer among public schools within their district (intra-district choice). The district has a few magnet schools as well.

Charter Schools

The District of Columbia has several charter schools. Charter schools are publicly funded schools that are free of many of the regulations that restrict traditional public schools.

Homeschool

Parents have to follow certain laws in Washington, D.C., when homeschooling their children.

Our Services

Find out what services are available in your state by contacting our state team. Click here to contact us.

 

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Materials You Might Find Useful

EdChoice  Policy Toolkit

As with all policies, policymakers crafting legislation to create a school choice program have to make numerous decisions about policy design: Who should be eligible? How should it be funded? How can we ensure accountability without too much red tape? Which state agency should have the responsibility of running or overseeing the program?

In the EdChoice Policy Toolkit, we summarize the main elements of educational choice policy design, discuss potential tradeoffs and make suggestions for designing policies that empower all families with educational opportunity.

Simply click below to download each piece of the toolkit.

  • Eligibility and Scale: Universal or Targeted?

  • Admissions: School Missions or Open Admissions?

  • Testing: Single Test or Menu of Options?

  • Uses: Traditional Vouchers or Education Savings Accounts (ESAs)?

  • Administration: Nonprofits and State Agencies

  • ESA Financial Accountability: Reimbursements, Debit Cards or Online Platforms?

  • Tax-Credit Scholarships: A Primer on Policy Options

  • A Guide for Producing Fiscal Notes for Private Educational Choice Programs

Have questions about this toolkit? We’re here to help. Email our Director of Policy Jason Bedrick at jason@edchoice.org. If you have specific questions about crafting fiscal notes, please email our Director of Fiscal Policy and Analysis at marty@edchoice.org. 

Washington, D.C. Private School Regulations

(Last Updated July 15, 2015) Private Schools

Accreditation, Registration, Licensing, and Approval

  • Accreditation: optional
    • Institutions that submit proof of accreditation or proof that they are undergoing the process of accreditation by an accrediting body identified in the District of Columbia regulations or are approved by the District of Columbia Board of Education (board) will be deemed to have presented satisfactory evidence that the amount and character of instruction, qualifications of staff and other conditions, such as class size, facilities, counseling services, and attendance record-keeping are acceptable to the board . 5-E D.C. District of Columbia Municipal Regulation (DCMR) § 2100.3.
  • Registration: no requirements
  • Licensing: no requirements
  • Approval: required
    • The board is responsible for establishing requirements to govern acceptable credit for studies at independent or private schools. District of Columbia Official Code (D.C. Code) §38-202(d).
    • Schools must provide satisfactory evidence to the superintendent of schools that the amount and character of instruction, qualifications of staff, and other conditions, such as class size, facilities, counseling services, and attendance record-keeping, are acceptable to the board. 5-E DCMR §2100.2.

Teacher Certification

  • A District of Columbia teaching certificate is not required. Schools must provide satisfactory evidence to the superintendent of schools that the qualifications of staff, i.e. the training and educational requirements for teaching and supervisory staff, are acceptable to the board. 5-E DCMR §2100.2.

Length of School Year and Days

  • Schools must provide satisfactory evidence to the superintendent of schools that the amount of instruction, i.e. the number of hours per day, days per week, and weeks per year, is acceptable to the board. The instruction need not be given at the same time as the equivalent D.C. Public School instruction program. 5-E DCMR §2100.2.

Curriculum

  • Schools must provide satisfactory evidence to the superintendent of schools that the character of instruction includes acceptable subject matter and time devoted to the subjects. 5-E DCMR §2100.2.

Recordkeeping and Reports

  • School approval for attendance purposes is contingent on the maintenance and submission of attendance records to the board. 5-E DCMR §2100.6.
  • Independent, private, or parochial school teachers must keep an accurate daily record of attendance of all enrolled students legally required to attend school. These records must be open for inspection at all times by persons authorized to enforce the district's compulsory school attendance law. D.C. Code §38-203(a).
  • Principals, head teachers, teachers who give private instruction, and school administrative officers have a duty to report to the board a student's absence for more than two full-day sessions or four half-day sessions in any school month and the reasons for the absence. D.C. Code §38-203(b).
  • Within 60 days of the end of the school year, private, independent, and parochial schools must report data to the mayor and public, including unexcused absences of minors by grade, by days absent, by interventions (referrals to Child and Family Services Agency and the Court Social Services Division of the District of Columbia Courts) and the work of school-based student support teams to reduce unexcused absences. D.C. Code §38-203(i).
  • Principals must report to the board the name, address, sex, and date of birth of each minor who resides permanently or temporarily in the district who transfers between schools or who enrolls in or withdraws from his or her school. D.C. Code §38-205.
  • Anyone who willfully neglects or refuses to provide information regarding attendance, absence, and enrollment records, or knowingly makes any false statement, is guilty of a misdemeanor. D.C. Code §38-206.
  • Private schools must maintain health files for each student. Each file must contain all health-related documents, including the certificates of health and dental health. D.C. Code §38-607.
  • Private schools and their employees are neither civilly nor criminally liable for failing to recognize or communicate the need for medical treatment based on the information contained in the student's health file. D.C. Code §38-609.

Health and Safety Requirements

  • Private school students from pre-K to 12th grade are annually required to submit certificates of health. The certificates of health must be signed by a physician or nurse practitioner upon examination within a 12-month period before the first day of school. D.C. Code §38-602(a).
  • Private school students under six years of age must furnish the school with a certificate of testing for lead poisoning. D.C. Code §38-602(a-1).
  • The mayor establishes requirements for periodic dental examinations and the submission of certificates of dental health. No student will be excluded from school for failure to submit a certificate. Also, the mayor is responsible for developing and providing the standard forms for certificates of health and dental health. D.C. Code §38-602(b) and (c).
  • If physical or dental examinations violate the established tenets and practices of a parent's, guardian's, or student's church or religious denomination, then certificates of health shall not be required of the student upon receipt of a written notarized statement to that effect. D.C. Code §38-603.
  • The mayor establishes uniform health screening requirements for all children from birth to 21 years of age who are residents or wards of the District of Columbia. The mayor also establishes a uniform health assessment form for enrollment of children in educational programs, including private schools. D.C. Code §7-875.03.
  • An athlete (defined as a person who engages in athletic activity who is 18 years or younger) who is suspected of sustaining a concussion in an athletic activity (including private school-sponsored activities) must be immediately removed from physical participation in the athletic activity and may not return to participation in the athletic activity until evaluated and given written approval to return by a licensed or certified health-care provider. D.C. Code §§7-2871.01 and 7-2871.02.
  • School officials, teachers, athletic coaches, and social service workers who may be involved with children at a private, parochial, or independent school and who have reasonable cause to suspect, in their professional or official capacity, that a child has been or is in immediate danger of mental or physical abuse or neglect, shall report this to the Metropolitan Police Department or Child and Family Services Agency. D.C. Code §4-1321.02.
  • Private schools may be granted access to substantiated reports of child abuse or neglect in the Child Protection Register for the purpose of making decisions regarding prospective employees and volunteers. D.C. Code §4-1302.03.
  • Private schools must report truancy (10 or 15 unexcused absences, as applicable) to the police department, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), Child and Family Services Agency, Court Social Services Division of the Superior Court and the Office of the Attorney General, as applicable. D.C. Code §38-208.
  • Tobacco smoking is prohibited in the educational facilities of private schools except in smoking lounges or specific smoking areas approved by the school. D.C. Code §§7-1702 and 7-1703.
  • All areas within 1,000 feet of a private school shall be declared gun-free zones. D.C. Code §22-4502.01.
  • All areas within 1,000 feet of a private school shall be declared drug-free zones; distribution of needles or syringes for injection of any illegal drug is prohibited. D.C. Code § 48-1121.
  • A student enrolled in a private school may possess and self-administer medication at school, school-sponsored activities and while on school-sponsored transportation in order to treat asthma, anaphylaxis, or other illnesses subject to submission of a valid medication action plan and other conditions of the law. School employees and other trained and certified agents may administer medication in accordance with the requirements of the law. D.C. Code §§38-651.01 through 38-651.06.
  • A student in a private residential program for intellectual or developmental disabilities may possess and self-administer medication subject to supervision or other requirements of law. School employees and other trained and certified agents may administer medication in accordance with the requirements of the law. D.C. Code §§21-1201 through 21-1206.
  • Private schools may participate in the Healthy Schools Fund program and receive cost reimbursement for serving healthy meals meeting certain nutritional standards. During school hours, participating private schools must ensure all food sold or provided by the school meets the requirements of the United States Department of Agriculture's Healthier US School Challenge program at the Gold Award Level for competitive foods. D.C. Code §§38-821.02 through 38-822.07.
  • No student shall be admitted by a school unless the school has certification of immunization for that student unless otherwise exempt. A student must be permitted to attend school for no more than 10 days while the school does not have a certification of immunization for the student. D.C. Code §§38-502 through 38-506.
  • Private schools are required to report immunization history to the department of health in the manner and form required by the department. 22-B DCMR §129.2.
  • A child suspected of having ringworm of the scalp shall be excluded from school and shall not return until obtaining a certificate from the department of human services, a licensed physician, or clinic under the direction of a licensed physician. 22-B DCMR §204.1.
  • Cafeterias in private schools fall under 25-A DCMR Food and Food Operations. 25-A DCMR §9901.

Transportation

  • The mayor may enter into agreements with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to provide transportation at reduced fares for students traveling to private and parochial schools and related educational activities in the District of Columbia. D.C. Code §35-232.
  • egular school days, students are not to be charged a bus fee or transfer fees and will pay a reduced Metrorail fare. The reduced fare for peak and off-peak hours on Metrorail is one-half the base boarding peak fare. D.C. Code §35-233.

Textbooks

  • No municipal policy exists regarding textbooks at this time.

Testing

  • Students enrolled in nonpublic schools that receive educational services funded by the District of Columbia must participate in the annual academic assessments. Math and English language arts assessments are given in grades three, eight, and 10; science assessments in grades five and eight; and biology assessments in grades nine through 12. 5-A DCMR §2301.4.

Special Education

  • The District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) shall be responsible for the placement and funding of a student with a disability in a nonpublic special education school or program when (1) DCPS cannot implement the student's Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or provide an appropriate placement in conformity with DCPS rules, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and any other applicable laws or regulations; and (2) the nonpublic special education school or program to which the student has been referred is approved by the state education agency in accordance with D.C. Code §38-2561.07, can implement the student's IEP, and represents the least restrictive environment for the student. D.C. Code §38-2561.03(a).
  • District of Columbia public charter schools may place a student with a disability in a nonpublic special education school or program only after notifying OSSE or DCPS, as applicable. 5-E DCMR §3019.8.
  • The mayor, or his or her designee, shall administer and implement a rate-setting process for the payment of tuition and related services to nonpublic special education schools and programs that provide special education and related services to students with disabilities funded by the District of Columbia. D.C. Code §38-2561.12(a).
  • Nonpublic special education schools and programs must meet all the requirements of 5-A DCMR 28 to be granted a certificate of approval. 5 DCMR 2803.1.
  • Nonpublic special education schools and programs that serve students with disabilities funded by the District of Columbia must ensure the instructional alignment with the learning standards, grades, promotion, and graduation requirements as defined in 5 DCMR. 5-A DCMR §2805.2.
  • Nonpublic special education schools and programs must ensure all students are included in statewide assessments, either through the general assessments or an alternate assessment approved by OSSE. 5-A DCMR 2805.3.
  • Nonpublic special education schools and programs that serve students with disabilities funded by the District of Columbia need to have a minimum of 180 regular instructional school days, except in the case of an extended school year period mandated in an IEP. Each school day, excluding pre-K, evening school, or other alternative programs, must have a minimum of six hours. 5-A DCMR §2806.
  • Nonpublic special education schools and programs that serve students with disabilities funded by the District of Columbia must provide all resources, materials, and facilities specified in the enrolled students' IEPs. A school or program will not be eligible for a certificate of approval if it does not. 5-A DCMR 2807.
  • Nonpublic special education schools serving students with disabilities funded by the District of Columbia shall make reports of suspected neglect or abuse as defined in D.C. Code §§16-2301(9) and (23), respectively (including compliance with the law on compulsory school attendance) as required by all relevant federal, state, and local laws. 5-A DCMR §2811.1.
  • Nonpublic special education schools serving students with disabilities funded by the District of Columbia must allow students to initiate time away from structured activity as a means of regaining self-control. 5-A DCMR §2815.
  • The use of physical restraints is prohibited in nonpublic special education schools serving students with disabilities funded by the District of Columbia, except in cases of emergency. Such restraints may be performed only by trained staff and must be reported to the parent and the sending school or District of Columbia agency involved with the student's placement within one day of the incident. 5-A DCMR §§2816 and 2820.
  • Prone restraints and mechanical restraints of students with disabilities funded by the District of Columbia are prohibited. Chemical restraints may be administered only to the extent they are determined to be medically necessary. 5-A DCMR §§2816.8, 2817, and 2818.
  • The seclusion of students with disabilities funded by the District of Columbia is prohibited except in cases of emergency. Seclusions must be conducted as required by regulations and must be reported to the parent and the sending school or District of Columbia agency involved with the student's placement within one day of the incident. 5-A DCMR §§2819 and 2820.
  • Teaching and related services staff who are from nonpublic special education schools and programs and who serve students with disabilities funded by the District of Columbia must have a teaching certification from the state or district in which the school is located. This certification must be at the same level as required for teaching staff in public schools of that state or district. 5-A DCMR §§2823.2 and 2823.3.
  • Nonpublic special education schools and programs that serve students with disabilities funded by the District of Columbia must conduct child protective service and criminal background checks on school personnel consistent with District of Columbia requirements. 5-A DCMR §2823.5
  • Nonpublic special education schools and programs that serve students with disabilities funded by the District of Columbia must maintain policies and procedures required by regulation, provide professional development to staff, provide information to students, parents and the public, and maintain all required licenses. 5-A DCMR §§2824 through 2829.
  • Incidents involving physical injury to students with disabilities attending nonpublic special education schools funded by the District of Columbia, emergency situations, or material events must be reported to the sending school and OSSE. 5-A DCMR §§2830 through 2832.

Nursing and Health

  • The District's family and medical leave laws apply equally to public school employees and private school employees. Special provisions are made for individuals employed in instructional capacities. Private school policies and practices control restoration of employment determinations. D.C. Code §32-506.

Technology

  • No municipal policy exists regarding technology at this time.

Professional Development

  • No municipal policy exists regarding professional development at this time.

Reimbursement for Performing State and Local Functions

  • See rate-setting provisions applicable to nonpublic special education schools providing special education services to students placed from the District of Columbia. D.C. Code §38-2561.12(a).

Tax Exemption

  • No municipal policy exists regarding tax exemption at this time.

Public Aid for Private Education

  • Constitutional Provisions: No official code exists.
  • Programs for financial assistance at private schools: The DC Opportunity Scholarship Program provides scholarships for students of low-income families. It provides up to of up to $8,000 in kindergarten through eighth grade and up to $12,000 for students in grades nine through 12. D.C. Code §§38-1853.01 through 38-1853.14.
Home Schools

Initial and Renewal Applications

  • Every teacher who gives instruction privately shall keep an accurate daily record of attendance of all minors. These records shall be open for inspection at all times. D.C. Code §38-203.
  • A parent or legal guardian providing homeschooling must provide a written Notice of Intent to Home School form to OSSE (which can be completed online) 15 business days before the first day home instruction begins. 5-E DCMR §5202.1.
  • Each year in which a home school program continues, the parent or legal guardian shall file a home school notification form for each child being homeschooled, no later than August 15th of that year. A parent shall notify OSSE in writing of discontinuing homeschooling for any reason 15 days prior to discontinuing it. The 15 days do not including Saturdays, Sundays, or district holidays. 5-E DCMR §5203.

Curriculum and Instruction

  • A homeschooling program must include, at minimum, language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, art, music, health, and physical education, and must be of sufficient duration to implement the program. 5-E DCMR §5204.1.
  • Parents or legal guardians must have a high school diploma or equivalent in order to provide home school instruction. If the parent or legal guardian does not, they may petition OSSE for a waiver with evidence of the parent's or legal guardian's ability to provide a thorough, regular education. 5-E DCMR §§5207.1 and 5207.2

Assessment and Diplomas

  • A parent or legal guardian must maintain a portfolio of home school materials (including the child's current work showing that the child is engaged in a range of subjects). This portfolio must be maintained for a year and available to review by OSSE upon written request. 5-E DCMR §§5205.1 and 5205.2
  • OSSE has 30 business days after receiving the portfolio to provide a Notification of Deficiencies when it determines that a student is not receiving thorough, regular education consistent with 5-E DCMR 52. The parent or legal guardian must respond within 30 business days with a Corrective Action Plan (CAP) indicating how each deficiency will be remedied. OSSE must review and respond to the parent or legal guardian within 15 business days, of receiving the CAP. The parent or legal guardian then may request a meeting to discuss OSSE's response to the CAP. If the CAP fails to correct the deficiencies, OSSE will issue a Letter of Non-Compliance. The parent or legal guardian may appeal the findings of non-compliance to the state superintendent of education within 15 calendar days. The state superintendent of education will issue a final decision, which the parent or guardian may appeal to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Within 45 days of this final decision, the parent or legal guardian will be required to enroll the child or children in public or nonpublic school unless the action is stayed by a court order. 5-E DCMR §5208.
  • Homeschooled students are eligible to participate free of charge in standardized testing programs at their residential public school. 5-E DCMR §5209.1.
  • If a homeschooled student applies to enroll in the District of Columbia public school (including public charter schools), placement of the child and any credits towards high school graduation will be determined by evaluation (which may include administration of standardized tests, other examinations, and interviews with the child). 5-E DCMR §5210.1.
Source: U.S. Department of Education, State Regulation of Private and Home Schools, District of Columbia  

Washington, D.C. State Groups

Select a Choice Option to Begin

School Choice in

Washington, D.C.

The District of Columbia offers K–12 students and their families several types of school choice, including one private school choice program, charter schools, magnet schools, home schooling and intra-district public school choice.

Explore Other States

Private School Choice

The District of Columbia has one private school choice program, a school voucher that helps some families afford to send their children to participating private schools.

Washington, D.C. Program List

Public School Choice

The District of Columbia allows some parents to transfer among public schools within their district (intra-district choice). The district has a few magnet schools as well.

Charter Schools

The District of Columbia has several charter schools. Charter schools are publicly funded schools that are free of many of the regulations that restrict traditional public schools.

Homeschool

Parents have to follow certain laws in Washington, D.C., when homeschooling their children.

Our Services

Find out what services are available in your state by contacting our state team. Click here to contact us.

 

  • Fiscal Analysis
  • Surveys and Data Analysis
  • Drive-Time Mapping
  • Messaging Services
  • Campaign Planning & Advice
  • Radio & TV Scripting
  • Op-eds and Letters to the Editor
  • Website Design and Development
  • Media Training
  • Scholarship Organization Training
  • Parent Organizer Trainings
  • Coalition Retreats
  • Legislator Training
  • Expert Speakers Bureau
  • Clergy Trainings
  • Grass-tops/Community Leader Trainings
  • Community Conversation Convenings
  • Partnership Building & Support
  • Government Relations & Lobbying
  • Grants & Financial Support
  • Bill Design & Policy Advice
  • Strategic Planning
  • State Events & Policy Briefings
  • Legal Consulting & Services

Materials You Might Find Useful

Washington, D.C. Fast Facts

Save PDF
National Parents’ Schooling Preferences

EdChoice Public Opinion Tracker

Where K–12 D.C. Students Attend School Now

National Center on Education Statistics

a2zhomeschooling.com

EdChoice School Choice in America Dashboard

D.C. Public Education Funding Sources

U.S. Department of Education, NCES, Common Core of Data (CCD)

Data last updated 3/2020.

School Spending/Costs By Sector
  • $31,280

    Avg. D.C. Total Spending Per Pupil (Public)

  • $25,191

    Avg. D.C. Total Spending Per Pupil (Charter)

  • $11,004

    Avg. National Private K-12 Tuition Per Pupil

  • $10,095

    Avg. Cost Per Pupil (D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program)

Private School Review

Schooling in America Dashboard

U.S. Department of Education, NCES, Common Core of Data (CCD)

Data last updated 3/2020.

D.C. Education Spending Out of Total

U.S. Department of Education, NCES, Common Core of Data (CCD)

Data last updated 3/2020.

D.C. Public School Hiring and Salary Trends Since 1992

National Center on Education Statistics

EdChoice Private School Choice Fiscal Calculations