When it comes to deciding whether to send children to private school vs public school, there are a few essential questions for parents to consider. It not simply about trusting public vs private school to educate your child in a way that prepares them for the future. The consideration is even more than simply thinking about the cost, although that’s unavoidable. It’s important to know if it’s worth it to pay for private school based on all the perks they claim to offer. And even cost becomes complicated with new tax rules laid out by the Devos-led Department of Education.
And frankly, for every expert extolling the virtues of keeping a child in public schools, there is another touting the benefits of going private. Comparing hard data is just as confusing: private schools are not required to release detailed data about their classes like public schools are. The only metric that both types of schools go head to head on is national testing (SAT, PSAT, & ACT). Most may not be surprised to learn private schools perform better, though districts argue that’s due to those students coming from privileged backgrounds.
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“Instead of just looking at the raw data, parents should instead ask themselves what type of schooling are they looking for, for their child,” says Mark Dynarski of the Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institute. “What type of environment would best be suited to your child?”
Public School vs. Private School: Religion
Parents who want some form of a religious values-based learning environment will need to seek out private schools. The separation of church and state is guaranteed by the Constitution and that means local public schools can’t introduce religion into the classroom. A vast majority of private school students (79 percent) attend some form of a religiously-affiliated school. A full 1.9 million kids are enrolled in Catholic institutions, making it the largest component of the private school universe. But, it’s a system that is changing. According to the National Catholic Educational Association, 18.4 percent of all the students enrolled were non-Catholic, a number that has been steadily growing over the years.
Public School vs. Private School: Teachers
The most important parts of any school are the teachers. This is one place where public schools have an advantage over private. The percentage of new teachers (less than four years of teaching experience) is higher in private schools at 16 percent compared with public schools at 11 percent. “Due to higher salaries and better benefits packages, teachers gravitate towards public schools,” says Dynarski. “A common complaint you hear from private schools is they feel like a feeder system for the public schools.”
The public school teachers also have a higher percentage of master’s degrees — 48 percent compared to 36 percent in private schools. Also, 85 percent of public school teachers participate in some form of professional development every twelve months compared to 67 percent in private schools. On average both schools’ teachers have the same level of teaching experience at 14 years, and spend 52 hours a week on school-related activities. But, where public school teachers must be certified before they get to teach, private school teachers don’t have such requirements.