Education Special Section
THE PERKS OF PRIVATE by Staff Reports
A Public schools are required by law to accept all students, although there are some variables here when it comes to children from outside the district, and with school choice in Arizona, this issue is further complicated.
rizona offers nearly limitless options for schooling. There are charter schools, traditional district schools and private schools – each with their own set of pros and cons and each varying in quality, even among their own categories. But how do you make the right decision? How do you know which type of school will best suit your child? It seems that some parents fiercely advocate for private school educations, while others insist that there are as many high quality public school options available as well. Throw charter schools – which are also public – into the mix and the decision is even more confusing. The choice is yours, but here are some of the key differences all parents should know.
Public schools cannot charge tuition because they are funded by federal, state and local taxes and are part of a larger school system operated by the government and subject to regulations set by politicians. Private schools, on the other hand, do not receive this funding and must rely on tuition, grants or fundraising from parents, alumni and the community to operate. If the school is affiliated with a church, the church will also likely assist with funding. What this means for parents is that attending private schools comes with a significant cost for tuition. According to the National Association of Independent Schools, the median tuition for their member private day schools in 2008-2009 in the United States was $17,441. Parochial schools are generally more affordable and have a national mean tuition for parish elementary schools of $2,607 and $6,906 for the first year of high school, according to the National Catholic Educational Association. But despite the high out-of-pocket costs to attend, there are many benefits that private schools enjoy thanks
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to the fact that they are not operated and funded by the government. Private schools have greater flexibility to offer specialized programs, more rigorous curriculum and religious classes and activities. Parents with youth in private schools may enjoy greater flexibility with regards to children with special needs or those who require other special considerations.
Another key difference between public and private schools is their admissions procedures. Public schools are required by law to accept all students, although there are some variables here when it comes to children from outside the district, and with school choice in Arizona, this issue is further complicated. Private schools, on the other hand, do not need to accept every child and can test, interview and select the students they allow to attend. Proponents of private schools often argue that this allows for a more rigorous classroom environment.
In the classroom
All teachers in public schools are held to certain education and certification requirements mandated by law. However, charter schools have a
bit more flexibility in this area, as do private schools. Likewise, in the area of curriculum, public schools follow specific state guidelines regarding standards and assessments, whereas private schools can select their own curriculum and assessment model. Class sizes vary in both public and private schools – for example Catholic schools tend to have larger class sizes than small Christian schools of other denominations. Finally, when it comes to students with special needs, public schools must educate all students and provide resources and programs to meet their special needs. However, private schools do not have to accept children with special needs and may or may not do so. So, how do you know what to choose? Ultimately, it depends on a number of factors – cost, religious preference, your child’s interests, needs and academic goals. While studies have shown that private school students generally score higher on tests, there are a number of widely publicized studies that – when accounting for students’ backgrounds – also show public school students fare as well or better than their private school-educated peers.
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