Skip to main content

The Fay School

Search form

Public School vs. Private School

You are here

Public School vs. Private School

Monday, June 24, 2019

As a parent, you may find yourself asking this question:

“Do I send my child to a public or private school?”

This question can be quite a simple question, while on the other hand a rather complex one. To help you determine which type of school makes sense for your family, it is helpful to start with simple facts:

  • Public schools in the United States are free and, generally, have larger class sizes. In comparison, private schools are not free and for the most part, have smaller class sizes. (However, many have tuition assistance programs.)
  • The public school curriculum is mandated by the State’s School Board of Education.
    • The private school curriculum is steered internally by the school’s standards, determined by its mission and vision.
  • Public schools do not have a faith identity.
    • Many private schools do have faith identities.
  • Public schools, for the most part, do not have an admissions process (unless you are looking at the magnet programs).
    • All private schools have admissions entrance exams.

Families who consider private or public should do their homework!  Most private schools have personnel ready and willing to introduce you to their program. Plan on scheduling a private tour or attending an Open House of the private schools you are considering.

Important factors that you as a parent should consider when looking at various schools, either public or private, are:

Values Identity

  • Do you want your child to be in a K – 12th grade program?
  • Do you want a program rich in a faith identity? 
  • Do you want your student involved in active community service? 
  • Do you want a very diverse community of students and families?
  • Do you want an academically rigorous curriculum or a more developmentally appropriate curriculum?
  • Do you want a program that is focused on Emotional Intelligence?
  • Do you want a program heavily invested in STEM/STEAM?
  • Do you want a single-sex education for your student?
  • Do you need extended hours, either in the morning or after school?
  • Do you want a school close to your home or place of work?

Student/Teacher Ratio

Private schools generally have a smaller student-teacher ratio which allows the teachers to differentiate their teaching. If you have a student who needs more challenge or scaffolding, you may want to consider a private school.

The Red Tape Factor

Public schools are generally under more “red tape” that mandates regulations and standards. Private schools are known for more open-door policies, making it easier for you as a parent to be heard and get answers.

Standardized Testing and Work Sheets

One criticism that seems universal about public school is the number of worksheets and rote learning that takes place in the classroom, along with the amount of time spent preparing students for the standardized tests.

How does a parent know which type of school to choose?

Do your homework!  As you were once an elementary student yourself, certainly you can remember this mantra. And it is so true!  Call the schools and request to tour the campus.  Ask your neighbors. Take a note of the bike racks …...if they are full of bikes, then you know it is a school where the neighborhood children attend.  Scope out the playing fields. Research your options online on such sites as Niche or Great Schools.  If you are in the Houston area, is a great resource to access the many private or independent school options.

Education is the greatest gift we can provide our children. Whether you decide on a public or private school, you must understand that it is a family affair!  Your student’s job is to be a positive contributing member to his/ her community of life-long learners.   Your job is to provide them with the tools that will allow them to enjoy their important journey. As a parent your role is to get your student to school on time, fully rested, and fortified with a healthy breakfast!  Check in regularly with them to make sure that they are happy in their school home.  And get to know their friends.

Before you know it, your student will become parents themselves in the future, will be pondering this very question for their own children:

“Do I send my child to a public or private school?”

About the author: Allison Teare has served The Fay School for over 15 years and is currently the Director of Enrollment. As a mother of three and grandmother of seven, she has both personal and professional experience in helping place children in an independent school setting.