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Public, Charter, and Private Schools: How They Compare

HappiFamli, Senior School Correspondents

October 5, 2019

Choices in schools have certainly changed a lot in the last generation or two.  Today education is a complex topic with questions about school quality, accountability, curriculum, and teacher training.  What this means for you, as you try to decide on the best school for your child, is that you have to educate yourself on all the choices available.  Unfortunately, doing that is no longer as straightforward as it once was.

To help you make your decision, here is a general description of and comparison between public, charter, and private schools.

Public schools are schools that are maintained at public expense for the education of the children of a community or district. They are part of a free public education system receiving tax dollars.  

Charter schools are public schools that are independent of school districts through contracts with state or local boards.  They are independently operated public schools started by parents, teachers, community organizations, and for-profit companies. These schools receive tax dollars, but the sponsoring group may also come up with private funding.  Charter schools usually challenge standard education practices and sometimes specialize in a particular area, such as technology, the arts, gifted or high-risk children, or adopt a basic core-subjects approach. 

Private schools are non-governmental schools that are not administered by local, state, or national governments. Because they do not accept public funding of any kind and instead use tuition charged to students as their source of funding as well as grants, donations & endowments.  Private schools are autonomous at the federal level but must adhere to basic state guidelines (such as agreeing to teach reading and math and adhering to building codes). 

When it comes to private versus public/charter schools, there isn’t a right answer to the question, “Which is better?” But given the different qualities of each type of school, there is a right answer to which one is the best fit for your child.