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Private Schools Vs. Public Schools

Private Schools Vs. Public Schools

All parents want the best for their ward. When the child reaches school going age, starts the private school or public school debate. It is a common dilemma which is seen all across America, and with regards to the rising cost of education, this is an important question.
Bhakti Satalkar
Earlier, if a child reached school going age, he was sent to a public school around the corner or may which was a short bus ride away. However, it is not as simple for parents any more. They are confused between private schools and public schools. Parents now have to do their homework well before they can choose a school for their child. There are points on the basis of which we will be able to take a wise decision.

Private Schools Vs. Public Schools Debate

The points which will be used in the public schools vs. private schools debate are academic reputation, facilities in the school, average class size, teaching methodology used, budget, administrative support and cost.

Academic Reputation
This point has a big role to play when the decision regarding public and private school is to be made. School systems are different, hence academic reputation has a greater role to play. Although there are many great public schools, a number of them also perform below the bar. Often it is the statistics about school academic records, due to which parents move their child to private schools. It is observed, that private schools often have more rigorous academic reputation. The percent of children who go to college differs depending on the location of the school. It is not recommended to lump all schools together, but you can certainly look at the school's overall focus and performance.

Facilities in a number of public schools are impressive, but at the same time, there are schools where the facilities are mediocre. However, it is not any different in private schools either. In public schools, political support and economic revenue base are critical. The funds come from the government (local, state or federal) and occasionally from corporations and organizations. Private school funds, on the other hand, come from non-public sources, such as religious organizations, endowments, grants and charitable donations, etc.

Class Size
Private schools win hands down on this issue. The class size of most of the private schools is small. The student to teacher ratio is 15 : 1 or even lesser to achieve individual attention goal. Public schools on the other hand, have bigger class size, as they take almost everyone who lives within its peripheral boundaries. In some public schools, the class size sometimes exceeds 35 to 40 students per class. This is when, teaching standards degrade.

Teaching Standards
Both private and public schools require their teachers to have basic qualifications, namely a degree and a teaching certificate. Private schools usually tend to hire teachers who have advanced degrees in their subject over teachers who just have an education degree. To elaborate the point, if a private school hires a Spanish teacher, it will hire a teacher who has a degree in Spanish language and literature, as opposed to an education degree with a minor in Spanish.

Public schools are supported through local property taxes, hence, the annual school budget exercise is a serious fiscal and political business. If the school is located in an area where the community is living on fixed incomes, there is very little room to respond to higher budget requests within the stipulated tax revenues. In such cases, grants from foundations and the business community are essential to create funding. Private schools, on the other hand, can raise their funding through tuition fees, and at the same time they can also raise a significant amount of money from a variety of development activities, which include annual appeals, solicitation of grants from foundations and corporations.

Administrative Support
The bigger the size of the bureaucracy, it is difficult to get decisions made and the chances of getting them addressed quickly becomes a long process. Public education system is famous for bloated bureaucracies, which can be attributed to union contracts and a host of political considerations, which are to be made. On the other hand, private schools have a lean management structure. Since every single penny spent comes from the operating income and from endowments, these resources have to be spent carefully. The other added advantage the private schools have is, that they do not have to deal with teacher union problems or have to make any political considerations.

Public schools are prohibited from charging students, hence the entire education is almost free. However, since the private schools do not receive any tax revenues, they have to charge the students, which is often exorbitant.

From this debate on private schools vs. public schools, it is very difficult to get any clear cut answer. In other words, both public and private schools have their own advantages and disadvantages. A deciding factor, which may play a deciding role, is the cost incurred. However, if you can afford to pay the fees, then you may want to give private schools a top priority. You will have to weigh the pros and cons and then decide the better of the two that suits you best.