When it comes to choosing a school for your kids, the choices can seem endless. Magnet, charter, boarding, and now even online schools are all getting press these days but they make up just a small number of the over 130,000 schools in the United States today.
The age-old debate of public versus private schools is no more cut and dry than in the past but the essential differences between the two remain.
Financial Support System
The main difference between public and private schools is the source of funding. Public schools depend mainly on government funds, either local, state, or federal, and occasionally on funds from organizations and corporations.
A private school depends on tuition fees paid by students as well as funds from non-public sources. These include endowments, grants, religious organizations, and charitable donations.
As public schools are funded by the government, they have less control over how the school is run, the allowed curriculum, and how students are assessed.
Private schools are not required to follow state laws on what to teach. This means they can offer specialized programs for students and create their own assessment systems. Philosophical, intellectual, and religious programming can be integrated over and above the state regulations.
Quality of Teachers
Teachers in public schools need to be certified which means they have gone through the training required by their state. They also need to hold college degrees and at least a bachelor’s degree in the subject in which they teach (or prove competency through testing).
Private school teachers don’t necessarily need formal certification and schools can have their own personnel requirements. This flexibility allows private schools to accept teacher certification from organizations outside of state certification.
On average, public schools are usually twice the size of private schools. The class size in public schools located in urban areas can be as large as 25 to 30 students. Private schools tend to keep their class sizes closer to 19 students on average.
Class size isn’t the only indicator. Many private schools publicize a tempting student-to-teacher ratio. Private elementary schools, for example, have a national average for teacher-student ratios of 9:1 as opposed to a 17:1 ratio for public schools.
Public school is paid through taxes and State Constitutions prohibit them from charging for any form of tuition. Private schools, on the other hand, do charge for admission. The average annual tuition for private K-12 schools is $12,350.
Choosing private schools might be the more expensive choice but those who can afford the extra costs consider the benefits worth it. There are several scholarships and voucher programs available to help cover the costs for those looking for financial aid.
Public Versus Private Schools: Which Should You Choose?
The good news, whichever route you go, your child has a right to an education. The choice between public and private schools is a personal one and there are many factors that you need to consider for your family. The real question is, what type of school environment would best be suited to your child?