Getting Schooled Part II: Private Schools

Image: Flickr: final exam, by dcjohn, cc by 2.0

In my first installment of Getting Schooled, I gave you the results of the survey I did about where people were sending their children and why.

In this installment I will be talking about the private school option.

As a follow up to the surveys, I interviewed parents from each of the schooling categories to dig deeper into why they chose the option they did.

I am also going to share the different types of private schools that the United States has.

There are varying definitions of what a private school is.

Wikipedia give this definition: A private school is any school that is “not administered by local, state or national governments; thus, they retain the right to select their students and are funded in whole or in part by charging their students’ tuition, rather than relying on mandatory taxation through public (government) funding”.

I’m not sure how entirely accurate that is given that military schools are private, but since the military funds them, doesn’t that mean tax payers fund them?

Whatever, that isn’t what this post is about.

Back to it…

Types of Private Schools:

  • Boarding Schools
  • Christian/Catholic/Religious Schools
  • Country Day Schools
  • Military Schools
  • Montessori Schools
  • Waldorf Schools

The only people who answered my call for interviews were those who send/sent their children to Christian or Catholic private schools.

A few said it was where they or their spouse went or worked. But most say private school was chosen due to size.  The Public School District they were in was just too darn big, and the schools just too darn massive.

So what if YOU are trying to decide between public or private schools?  What are the real differences?

It really all comes down to money.

Public schools can’t charge tuition, but are often severely underfunded and the funds they do get come from a LOT of different places and can only be spent certain ways.

Private schools, on the other hand, can have sky-high tuition costs and a million fundraisers to help fund the school. Religious private schools tend to be more affordable since funding also comes from the church or affiliation, so tuition tends to be lower.

Because money controls everything in this country, private schools that do not accept government or public funding do not have to follow the same rules that public schools do. This can be good when it means that the private school is allowed to teach beyond testing and specialize for their students.  It can be bad when the private school decides to not even meet the most basic standards of public schools because “it doesn’t have to” and/or “doesn’t have the money to”.

The other difference is admissions.

By law, public schools have to admit ALL students.  Period.

Private schools can be selective.

These can have their pros and cons as well.

For instance,  a public school cannot turn away your child because s/he is deaf or blind or has Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or is handicapped.  And Special Education Laws require that the district provide your student with what s/he needs. The funding might suck, but they have to figure it out.

On the other hand, the funding might suck. Your child, whose Individualized Education Program (IEP) says he or she would do best in an inclusion classroom, might be in a classroom with 30 other students and just one teacher.  And depending on the district, this may be fine, or it may mean your child gets zero one-on-one due to behavioral issues the teacher is consumed with rather than teaching.

Private schools don’t have to take your child.

If their GPA is not high enough or they fail to turn in an acceptable admission portfolio, they can be denied.

On the flip side, if your kids get in, they could be in very small classes with lots of one-on-one with their teacher and other staff.

So tell me…do you send your child to a private school?  Why?  Why not?


  1. My kids just finished their first year in private school (non-religious) and they absolutely thrived. The private school they attend has a special sister school on site that is specifically for students who have learning disabilities/issues in certain areas. That’s the reason we chose it in the first place. In public school they were trying to diagnose my daughter with a learning disability to put her in an IEP program because of FCAT’s here in Florida. We had her tested independently and she was not diagnosed with any learning disabilities at all. The class size and student to teacher ratio is phenomenal at their new school… there are 2 teachers in each classroom from first through fifth grade. It is what works for us at this point and we are lucky that my FIL was generous enough to pay for them to attend.

  2. We are actually getting ready to send Brian to a Montessori school in a few weeks. Right now, he’s 2-1/2. He needs to be 3 by Sept 1 for a 3 year old preschool program. He has an Oct birthday. Also, all the 3 yo preschool programs I found here are VERY part-time (2-3 hrs, 2-3 days/wk). Mixing that with daycare doesn’t work for us with transportation issues. We thought about moving him into a center full-time; then he’d be in a classroom with kids of all the same age. The center that we visited really was still more like “daycare” for his age than “preschool.” He’s a bright kid and I want him to be intellectually stimulated; he does better when he’s challenged. The Montessori school we have chosen will have him in a classroom this summer that is 20 or fewer kids, and they are ages 3-6. He’ll stay in that room, with that teacher until he ages out of it. That’s some awesome consistency for him. He gets to grow with the other kids and experience a variety of age ranges. It is very independent and creative which are really good fits for him. We have friends who sent their daughter there starting at this age, and they have nothing but wonderful things to say. And? The cost is pretty comparable to the daycare center; I feel like we’re going to get a much better experience for Brian going this route.

    We don’t know yet what we’ll do when he is 6. Odds are that we’ll move him into public schools with the rest of the kids from our neighborhood. Who knows. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

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