Private Schools vs. Public Schools

Private School vs. Public School Breakdown

The private versus public school debate seems like a tale as old as time. Probably because people have argued for years about their benefits and drawbacks. However, while both have their advantages, one isn’t necessarily better than the other.

Here’s an examination of private and public schools and how to figure out which one may be right for a student.

Private Education

Thinking about private school? You’re not alone. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 5 million (roughly 10 percent) of students in the U.S. attend private schools.

Students and parents may choose to go to private school for a variety of reasons, including religion, the desire for single-sex education, as well as just experiencing a more flexible curriculum, which is something private schools are known for. Because private schools are independently funded, parents and guardians of private school students pay tuition, which goes toward financing the school in addition to other amenities. But unlike public schools, private schools can design their own curriculum, which can be both an advantage and disadvantage since this independence can foster lower standards. Moreover, private schools don’t have to have certified teachers, which can also be risky, and if a child has special needs, special needs programs aren’t always available via private institutions.

However, private schools almost guarantee smaller class sizes, since they are exclusive and require special admissions. And according to Niche data on tolerance, private schools are more likely to be accepting of students from minority groups and more prepared to combat bullying with anti-bullying campaigns. Plus, private high schools are known to produce higher standardized test scores.
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Public Education

Nearly 50 million students enroll in public elementary and secondary schools in the United States, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Most people might assume that private schools would be hands-down better than public schools because of their unique offerings and smaller classes, but that’s not necessarily so. In fact, some public schools, like charter schools, offer the perks of private schools (flexible curriculum, regulation exemption) without the cost of tuition. Similarly, magnet schools are public schools that have high academic standards and competitive admission like private schools.

But unlike their private counterparts, public schools have larger class sizes and not much flexibility when it comes to curriculum. Plus, they are under more bureaucratic red tape when it comes to regulations and rules.

The biggest perk of attending a public school over a private school is saving money. Public schools are free—no tuition required. Also, unlike private schools, public schools have a set of standards to hold to, with teachers that are state-certified and special education programs for students that learn differently from others. And despite Niche users reporting private schools as more accepting, public schools are notably more diverse, so private schools could be measuring tolerance on a smaller, less unique scale.

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Private School vs. Public School

Private Schools Public Schools
Private Schools Tuition to enroll
Public Schools No tuition to enroll
Private Schools Funded independently through tuition, grants, alumni, and community
Public Schools Funded via government and taxes
Private Schools Does not necessarily have regulations
Public Schools Must follow regulations
Private Schools Teachers don't necessarily have to be certified
Public Schools Teachers must be state certified or working toward it
Private Schools Flexibility with curriculum
Public Schools Not much flexibility with curriculum
Private Schools Smaller classes
Public Schools Larger classes
Private Schools May not have special education programs
Public Schools Have special education programs

The Bottom Line

When it comes to private versus public schools, there isn’t a right answer to the question, “Which is better?” But given the different qualities of each type of school, there is a right answer to which one is right for a particular student.

Related: The Pros and Cons of Single-Sex Education

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Author: Niche

Niche helps you discover the schools and neighborhoods that are right for you.

Private School vs. Public School Breakdown