Public School vs. Private School: The Pros and Cons
Public School vs. Private School
One of the hardest decisions parents can make is where to send their child to school. The government funds both public and charter schools. You do not have to pay for your child to attend one of these schools. Private schools often carry large price tags and can further create an economic struggle for a family.
No doubt, money is a significant factor when it comes to deciding to send your child to a private school. Although the smaller class size and more individualized teaching may seem appealing, private schools are not always best for every student.
Having a special needs child makes the decision even more crucial, as you will have many issues that other parents may not have to consider.
Pros of Public School
As you look over the list below, keep in mind that your situation is unique to you, and not every benefit may apply to your child.
• There is no cost to attend a public school.
• Your child will attend school with children living in the neighborhood, making it easier to encourage friendships with classmates residing nearby. You will also meet local parents in your community.
• Public schools often have more options for classes, after-school activities, and varied curriculums than many smaller, private schools.
• Your child may be exposed to a greater diversity of cultures and ethnicities than in some private schools that may be religion-based.
• Public schools tend to offer more accommodations and services such as Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), speech therapy, physical, occupational, and behavior therapy to students who need it.
• Some public schools have better facilities, such as sports fields, swimming pools, art and music programs, and even theatres.
• Public schools have requirements in place to provide education options that meet the needs of all students as outlined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) of 2004.
• They may be better equipped to handle children with special needs, offer a 504 plan or be able to develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP).
• Staffing for schools with special needs students is based on IEP service hours.
• A study by The National Center for Education Statistics showed public school teachers tend to have more experience and qualifications to serve special need students than those at private schools. Public school teachers must be certified.
• Some public schools offer specialized programs that speak to a child’s interests.
Cons of Public Schools
• Overcrowding is often an issue as communities grow faster than schools that were built for fewer students. With funding cuts, class sizes increase, and some students may study in portable classrooms far from the main building. This could pose a problem for some children with limited mobility.
• Larger class sizes mean less individualized attention. Your child may not get the one-on-one attention he or she might need.
• Some public schools face increased discipline issues in certain neighborhoods. The school may be limited in its actions.
• Not all public schools are the same. The quality of education can differ significantly from one school to another – even in the same city.
• School budgets may limit access to quality learning materials.
• Students are required to take standardized tests, and teachers are pressured to spend a significant amount of time “teaching to the tests.”
• Although the school is bound by law to provide your child with an individualized education, you may have to be more proactive to get your child what he or she needs to thrive in the educational system.
• The school must work with you if your child is absent due to illness, treatments, or therapy, to prevent falling behind. You may have to intervene for your child to receive the necessary services.
• In the wake of recent tragedies, the safety of public schools is often questioned.
Pros of Private School
A private school education might be right for some families, but it is not the optimal choice for every child. Here are benefits to a private school.
• Smaller class sizes may be less overwhelming and mean more individualized attention. The teacher can find a learning method best geared to your child.
• Many private schools provide a more challenging curriculum and students who are high achievers may thrive in this atmosphere.
• The values of the school will represent its core beliefs. You may find more traditions and expectations at a private school.
• Some private schools are religion-based, offering classes in religion as part of the curriculum.
• Private schools may have better funding, which translates to better supplies, resources, and equipment.
• Discipline is often taken seriously at private schools, which have an easy option of expelling students who do not behave.
• Private schools typically do not tolerate bullying behaviors. Your child may feel more welcome and included in the private school.
• Private school teachers have more control over their curriculum and teaching methods, and less responsibility to teach to standardized testing.
• Smaller private schools can work closely with a child who is out of school frequently due to illness or therapy. However, this is not always the case, so make certain to inquire about worse case scenarios at your initial meeting with the school. Be completely honest about your child’s situation.
• More parents tend to be active in school involvement since they are paying for their child’s education.
• Some private schools offer significant scholarships to make the education affordable for more students.
• Students who go to private high schools tend to have higher standardized test scores.
• Private schools tend to have better security and provide a safer learning environment.
Cons of Private School
• Private schools do not have to uphold the same regulations for teaching children with special needs. Your chosen school may not be able to provide your child with the services he or she requires.
• The cost can be prohibitive and put a financial strain on the family.
• The student body will often be less diverse, especially when looking at a religion-based school. There will likely be fewer students with special needs in a private school.
• You will have to apply and be selected by the school to attend – admission is not guaranteed.
• Religion-based schools often reduce secular class hours to fit in religious subjects.
• The school is not required by law to work with a child who is out sick. Discuss this in advance with the school before enrolling.
• Many students may come from wealthier backgrounds, sometimes making children from less affluent families feel “not as good” as their peers.
• Curriculum options may be limited, especially in high schools where public schools have varied offerings.
• Private schools typically do not offer services such as speech therapy. Additional therapies are believed to be the parent’s responsibility.
• Smaller private schools may not offer extensive opportunities for sports and extra-curricular activities.
• If the school does not seek certification, the teachers are not required to have a teaching degree.
• Private schools do not have to accept students with special needs.
• Your child may not be attending school with others from the neighborhood, reducing the ability to make local friends.
• Passing of an entrance exam may be required.
Pros and Cons of Charter Schools
A charter school may sound appealing due to its smaller class size and more familiar atmosphere. However, your child may not receive the same special needs programs available in a public school. Charter schools are not required by law to work with IEPs and disabilities, although many will whenever possible.
Charter schools are run by private companies but receive public funding. They tend to have fewer sports and extracurricular activities. Unfortunately, not all charter schools are well-run, and many fail each year. Well-run schools offer exceptional academic opportunities to their students. Be prepared to do extensive research if this is an option.
The Bottom Line on Public vs. Private School
While public schools are required by federal and state laws to provide services for students with special needs, it does not mean they will do the job well. As a parent, you must be prepared to fight for what your child needs. Some parents seek other avenues when they feel that the public school system failed them. However, for every negative story, there are those where the student thrives in this setting.
No one knows your child better than you do. Be watchful of specific signs and behaviors after a day at school. Does your child seem calm or agitated, happy or acting out? The answers can signal that everything is going right or all wrong. Your child may also thrive in a specialized learning environment for special needs students. If you believe this is an option for your child, check with your local school board to determine what is available in your community. Ultimately, the goal is for you to find the right fit for your child. Do not hesitate to make a change if you believe the current situation is not working out well.
Helpful links used to research this report:
You May Also Like
- The 50 Best Private Special Needs Schools in the United States
- Special Education: The Pros and Cons of Public vs. Private School
- The Politics of Special Education: The Information You Need Right Now
- Early Intervention: First Steps in the Right Direction
- Early Intervention: First Steps in the Right Direction
- 8 Ways to be a Great Advocate For Your Family Member With Special Needs
- Advocating: What You Need to Know to Become a Better Advocate
- Basic Blue Print for Advocating for Your Child with Special Needs
- “Instruction Manual” for Your Child With Special Needs
- Financial Planning: For Those Who Are at the Starting Line
- IEP … I Do’s Building a Viable Home-School Relationship -It’s like a Marriage
- Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue? Here Are Ways to Combat It…
- Raising a Child With Special Needs: Want to Know What Is Predictable?
- Multitasking the Right Way: How You Can Make the Most of Your Time
- Developing Your Own Network
- A PATH to the Future
This post originally appeared on our July/August 2018 Magazine