What You Need to Know About School Choices in LA

Designed by Coop Himmelb(l)au, the Visual and Performing Arts High School in Los Angeles

  School choices in LA are as vibrant as the city itself! 
Written by Brits in LA member
Sharon Weir
Los Angeles has approximately 700,000 students in public schools in a wide variety of school settings. Often, when British families come to live in LA, they are overwhelmed by the school options and how to make the best choice for their child. 
Below is a brief snapshot of what UK families should be aware of, as well as a range of helpful websites to give more information on the options that are available to them. 
The Basics: - Public Education in LA is Free! 
Like the UK public education system, public education in LA is 100% free for children in Kindergarten through High School. 
The Local School District - LAUSD
Most families who are looking for public school options choose their local or district school option. These are public schools that are run by the local school district and are free and open to all. The local school district in LA is LAUSD (Los Angeles Unified School District) and is one of the largest school districts in the USA. 
Families who move to LA from the UK can easily check out the LAUSD website and find guidelines on how to apply and a list of local schools that are located in near their residence. www.lausd.net
However, LAUSD has many challenges as a very large urban public school district, and includes a wide range of schools many of which are considered to be excellent to those that exhibit significant problems. 
Within LAUSD there are a range of public school choices, which include:
  • Regular Schools (every residence has a locally zoned elementary, middle, and high school)
  • Magnet Schools (which include Music, Math, Science and Highly/Gifted Programs) Schools 
  • Charter Schools 
  • Alternative School (including online schools)
Details of all school options in LAUSD are easily accessible on the LAUSD website and on the LAUSD online school  “Choices” brochure. http://echoices.lausd.net
Location! Location! Location!
Options in Other Public School Districts
If you live within the boundaries of LAUSD, it might still be possible to have your child attend a school that is not within LAUSD. Options such as Santa Monica/Malibu Unified School District www.smmusd.org and Culver City Unified School District www.ccusd.org are popular choices with British families. It is worth checking out the district websites for information of Santa Monica/Malibu and Culver City schools and how to apply for admissions. 
LA Charter Schools – A Free Public School Option 
Charter schools are thriving in Los Angeles and offer an alternative to the local school district choices. 
Charter schools are public schools. They are tuition-free and open to any student who wishes to attend regardless of where they live. Charter schools allow parents, organizations, or community groups to restore, reinvent, and reenergize the Los Angeles public school system. Charter schools are designed, tailored, and governed by each local community, rather than by a central bureaucracy. 
However, charter schools have grown in popularity in Los Angeles and many of the highest achieving charter schools have long waitlists of students looking for admission. 
To find a charter school that is located near you, check out the California Charter School Association Website www.calcharters.org
Private Schools in LA
There is a wide range of private schools in LA that offer many choices to prospective families. In addition, unlike the UK, religious schools in LA are considered Private Schools and almost all require some type of tuition. Private school tuition fees in LA can range from $8,000K to over $50,000 per student per year depending on the school. 
Some tuition scholarships (school sponsored funding towards the cost of tuition) are often available but these are usually needs based and evaluated on the financial circumstances of the family that applies. 
However, all Private Schools welcome inquiries from prospective families in regard to scholarship options and each school will have very specific criteria that they apply to prospective students. There are no one-size-fits-all criteria for a scholarship therefore, is it important to contact the individual school and inquire about their admissions policy and procedures for scholarships. 
To find a Private School in Los Angeles – check out 

Some Helpful hints On How To Choose The Right School For Your Child
1. Knowing your Child
The most important aspect of choosing a school is to look carefully at the needs of your child and research the school options that are available to you.  There are many very good options available for schools in LA. However, it is critical to consider the school environment that will be most conducive to your child’s learning style before making any choice. For example - if you have a child who excels in science and math then it will be important to locate schools that offer this type of program.
2. Go Visit
Most public, private and charter schools offer welcoming tours and opportunities to come in and see the school in action during the school day. School tours are a critical component of choosing a school that is the right fit for your child. Individual school websites provide details of dates and times of prospective parent tours. 
3. Get the Facts
A wide range of school-based data is freely available for all public schools in Los Angeles. Checking out the most recent data on a prospective school will allow families the opportunity to review and compare the California school test scores, student demographics, median family income, parent education levels and absence and tardy rates that pertain to a particular school. Data on all public schools in Los Angeles is readily available on the California Department of Education Website (CDE) under data and statistics check it out on – www.cde.ca.gov

4. Network with other Families
If you move into a new neighborhood in LA – asking other families with children of a similar age for recommendations of “good” local schools is often a quick way to find out the scoop on the local school choices. Most LA families are very helpful in providing the nuts and bolts of local school choices. 
5. Get the Scoop from Blog Sites
One of the most helpful website for any parent in LA is Great Schools - www.greatschools.net 
The Great Schools website will give parents a search tool to check out all local school options and provides pretty accurate data on the school. In addition many parents comment on the Great Schools website and give a fairly accurate insight into how individual schools operate behind the scenes. 
Finally, although choosing a school for your child is a little complicated in LA, mostly because there are so many options available, it is critical to research the best options open to you before selecting any type of school. Most schools in LA are different from UK schools in terms of their outlook and operation but many can be a terrific opportunity for your child to thrive in LA if you are prepared for a little legwork to find the right fit for your child. 

Brits in LA member Sharon Weir is the Principal/Executive Director 
New West Charter


  1. Fantastic article. Comprehensive, informative, beautifully written.

    Jill Lummus


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