Money and Child Raising: Public vs. Private Schools

There’s many things you need to do to help prepare your child for life. The world is a big, complex place, and you are the best, if not only, source of information and guidance your child will have. From providing them with a good moral compass to giving them a reasonable education, there’s much that you will need to do to ensure that your kid is prepared for life when he or she becomes an adult.

For that latter point, there’s more than one option available for teaching children. There are several different types of schools that currently exist for school-age children, with public schools and private schools being the most common. There is more than a little debate out there about the best type of school to educate your child and ensure that he or she will grow up wise, well-trained, and ready for life. (Alright, these are far from the only options, with things like private tutors, religious (particularly Catholic) schools, and of course, home schooling, all currently available. But to keep this article from stretching to a full week’s worth of posts, I’ve decided to limit the options to the two most common.)

A school like this is a particularly impressive one
A school like this is a particularly impressive one

With both private and public schools available, let’s start looking at some of the pros of each. (Note, though, that we’re looking at the pros of the type of schooling in general; with so many different schools out there, I’m sure you could find exceptions to general traits that I state below.)

Pros of Private Schools

-They Have More Choice Over Their Curriculum: Public schools are required to follow the curriculum requirements set forth by state and federal governments, which may or may not be the best for your child. This can mean the addition of subjects you don’t want your children to learn, and the lack of subjects you would support. Private schools, by contrast, are able to design their own curricula, enabling them to include (and not include) whatever courses they wish. This can make it easier to find a school that will teach your child what you wish them to learn (particularly with subjects involving religious material that public schools avoid).

-They Can Expel or Deny Your Child: I realize you might be saying, “Roger, how is it good that they keep my child out of their school?” But consider this: the ability of private schools to choose the students who are allowed to attend means that the students who are disruptive, troublesome, or simply draw too much of the teacher’s attention means that such students can be removed from the classroom before they interfere with other children’s education. Admittedly, if your child is removed from the school or prevented from attending, it plays out less well for you, but being able to dodge the troublemakers will be greatly helpful in keeping your child well-educated, assuming he or she keeps to the school’s rules.

-They Are More Highly Regarded: There is a wide-spread belief here in America that private schools are vastly superior in teaching ability to public schools. The latter are considered second-rate, at best, and nearly useless at worse. By the sheer virtue of attending a private school, your child will likely be viewed as better educated and more prepared for further education than public school students. (Much the same way that Ivy League college graduates are considered as more educated than other college grads.) This higher reputation can serve your child well throughout life.

Pros of Public Schools

-They Aren’t As Bad as You Might Think: I realize that ‘not as bad as you might think’ isn’t a great endorsement, but hear me out. Private school students tend to do better on standardized tests than public school students not as a result of the superior nature of the school’s teaching, but because said students are generally from better-off families (higher income level and so forth). Being able to afford private school, then, (and living in a region where most of the population is similarly well off, to help ensure that your public school is a decent one) is more important than actually sending your child to private school.

-They’re “Free”: Public schooling is provided to your children without any direct charges to you, regardless of the actual cost of keeping the school running. Even if you don’t have anywhere near the amount of money that would be required to pay for your child’s use of the school’s services, you are still able to have your child attend without any need to pay yourself. (I do call it “free” because someone needs to pay, and in this case it is the tax-payers of the school district you are attending. So, you are likely paying for your child’s education, anyway, but it won’t be any more than you’d pay with your child going to private school while you live in the public school district.)

-They Have to Accept Your Child: Public schools are required by law to accept all children, regardless of demographics, special needs, or behavioral problems. They also do not have the audience limits that private schools usually impose to keep their classes small. If your child would not be accepted into any private school regardless of your ability to pay his or her tuition, perhaps because they have special needs that the private school doesn’t want to handle, being ensured of admittance into public schools can be an excellent backup.

My Opinion

It’s a tough choice, that I’ll be the first to admit. While private schools are certainly impressive, and I think I can find one that would provide a great education to my daughter, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to meet the tuition requirements (my current financial state isn’t that impressive). Public schooling seems like a decent option (although the particular school district where I’m currently living is not that good). I’m hoping to add to my daughter’s education with different varieties of supplemental education, provided by myself and other educators I can have my daughter use, enabling her to learn more than a public school can teach her alone.

10 Responses to Money and Child Raising: Public vs. Private Schools

  1. I’m sending mine to a private school for sure. I would rather home-school my child than send him to public school. I’m sure not all public schools are bad but the ones in my neighborhood are. They all have really high fail rates and most of the seniors only test at like 6th grade reading and writing. I want the best for my child and that is to send him to a nicer school with a better success rate.
    Tanya´s last blog post ..The Best WordPress Anti-Spam Plugins for 2012-2013

    • Sounds like the schools in your neighborhood aren’t that impressive, Tanya. There is (sadly) a wide range of performances out there among public schools, and being in a bad neighborhood can mean that you have little choice but to find a decent private school. Good luck to you and your child with finding and attending a good school.

  2. I went to a public school, did my elementary ed field experience in public schools, taught in a charter school, and in a private school. My step sons go to the school I taught in. It is a financial sacrifice, but it is worth is to us to have small class sizes, our boys learning Biblical principles in school, and the teachers that teach as a ministry, they care so much. My girls are 2 and 9 months, so I have time to think about it. But..honestly at this point, I’d love to home school. I have the credentials, and I think it is something I would love to do. If not, when they are older, I will go back to teaching in the private school and they will go with:)
    Jules@Faithful With a Few´s last blog post ..Carnival of Personal Finance 02.18.13: Springtime Running Edition

    • Some interesting thoughts, Jules. It’s nice to get the perspective of a teacher on this issue, rather than merely parents. If you’re more inclined toward charter and other private schools, it does make me feel I’ll have to do more to get my girl into them. I’m sure she’ll benefit from a high quality private school, if I can get her in and afford the tuition costs.

  3. I’m feeling a little insulted by your “merely parents” comment in your response to Jules, although I do understand you really just meant to show respect for her profession. Most parents, after all, are the ones that really, truely, deeply care about their children’s well being and education above anyone else. As a parent of four with the oldest in college and the youngest still in elementary school, I think I have some personal knowledge to share that only experience can teach. I also am a member of a large family with 8 siblings who all went to a private, religious school for approximately 9 years each. My siblings and I were not members of a wealthy family & we all attended a private school. Many private schools allow parents to work tuition off via lunch programs, etc. So, no, private religious schools are not only for wealthy families. I also want to bring to your attention that many children who attend private schools ARE children with behavioral problems that would not be tolerated in public schools. Over my 10 years in private schooling, I had many classmates who transferred from public schools because the public schools couldn’t/wouldn’t deal with them and their parent’s recognized that & placed them in private schools instead. Many smaller, private schools have fewer extra-curricular activities to choose from. Activities like sports, chess club, debate etc. are very important to building selfconfidence and independence in children/young adults especially important for young girls.

    • Renee, no offense was intended toward parents, I was simply pointing out how nice it was to get the input of teachers and not only parents, with the ‘merely’ meaning ‘only’ in this context. In hindsight, I should probably have stated that more carefully, but well, that’s the risk of trying to type as you think.

      You raise some good points about private religious schools. As I noted, these options, public and private, non-religious schools, are far from the only ones available, and some of the most highly rated schools in the country are the private religious schools (Catholic schools in particular). I will admit that I did do much research on the admission policies of such private schools or the relative tolerance of religious vs. public schools for behavioral problems. If I had to guess, I would imagine that religious private schools would have much more open policies, as opposed to public or non-religious private schools.

      It’s nice to get your input; being from a public school, I’ll admit that my experiences with other school types are very limited, and as a result, perhaps a bit biased. I’ll definitely be sure to consider a school like the one you described for my little Elaine when it comes time for her education.

  4. My parents are considering sending my younger brother to a private school this next year. I like your point that a private school will have more choice over the curriculum. This seems pretty important when trying to find a way to reach kids.

  5. Thematic teaching, when combined with the use of real-life objects, authentic experiences and a wide variety learning materials, helps a child understand the world around him and forms the building blocks of the brain in a way that worksheets and lectures are unable to do.

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