You want to give your child the best, but you also have income constraints to think of. So how do you choose between private schools versus public schools? Put another way, how do you decide private education is really worth it? Here's a rundown of issues pertaining to private schools vs. public schools in North America:
Everyone pays taxes, so you are already supporting the public school system. Why pay for both, you might ask yourself? The fact is that in numerous provinces and states, you can get tax breaks when you send your child to private school over a public school. This tax break can come in many different forms depending on what state or province you are in.
Most private school parents view the "dollars and cents question" as a materialistic reduction. For example, for Jewish, Christian, or Catholic parents, a private school that bolsters religious faith offers something invaluable. Parents of Waldorf or Montessori school students feel much the same.
Depending on what kind of private school you decide on, tuition can range from $4,000 per year up to more than $100,000. Public school costs nothing, of course. Is it more important to you to spend the money on private school tuition versus having money to treat your kids well in other respects? How much are you willing to sacrifice? Do you think the best things in life are free – or do you believe you get what you pay for?
Private schools are allowed to expel students and can choose not to allow certain students admision. In fact, many private schools are difficult to get into. Public schools allow all students, regardless of religious creed, academic abilities, or any other factor.
Sending your child to a private school means enrollment is selective and demands are uniformly higher versus a public school where they will be exposed to a wider variety of people and abilities. In today's world, both are likely to incorporate students from various cultures and backgrounds.
In most areas, your children will attend public school with other kids from the same area. However, a number of provinces are moving toward a policy where you can request a change if you desire.
When parents choose a private school, they often do so based on their desire to give their children a specific peer group, whether that is based on discipline, cultural or religious background, or philosophical beliefs. This is perhaps understandable, in that establishing the right peer groups early on can have profound effects later in life.
In most private schools, students are excluded or expelled if they do not adhere to the school's policies or standards.
Overcrowding of public school classrooms is one of the most common complaints about the public education system, a significant problem that inspires parents to seek private school alternatives.
Because they do not use public funds (or in some areas, less funds), private schools are not as restricted in their program development or curricula. Private schools are not subject to budget limitations imposed by the state (although they may in fact have more restrictive limitations).
This freedom allows private schools to develop their own curricula. As long as parents agree with the intellectual, philosophical or religious basis brought to the curricula, this independence from 'government interference' is seen as a great advantage of private schools over public.
On the other hand, public schools use curricula designed to include all students, thus invoking in them a tolerance for others. Learning in both public and private schools is measured through standardized testing.
All teachers in public schools in almost all states and provinces in North America are required to have some form of federal, state or provincial certification along with a bachelor's degree.
In the more prestigious private and boarding schools, there are likely to be teachers who are much more highly qualified, with graduate degrees and higher-level awards. The same applies to schools with enrichment programs, such as gifted, AP, and IB schools.
Actual teacher certification on a state-by-state or province-by-province basis varies and is always being revised. So blanket statements are not helpful or appropriate.
Private school and public school administrators and educators all do their best to create the best learning environment possible. There are excellent public schools and there are excellent private schools.
In Canada, the Fraser Institute ranks schools, often finding favour with private schools, although it does highly rank some public schools. In the USA, the situation is similar: there are good public schools but many of the best overall schools are privately funded. A study by Harvard University found that private school students averaged higher than their public school counterparts in standardized tests in 11 of 12 comparisons of students.
If you're choosing between private school and public school, be sure to attend one of the Our Kids Private School Expos in the Fall. Parents and students agree spending just one afternoon at the Expo saved them time and energy in their search and gave them the information they needed to make the right school choice. Events are held in 6 cities across Canada annually in the Fall: Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Halton-Peel (Mississauga/Oakville), Calgary and Vancouver. RSVP required.
As a parent, you need to decide for yourself. Visit schools and see what the schools and teachers are like. We think the option of private school is a good one and gives parents alternatives they may want to pursue in finding the right education for their children.