Private versus public! It's a debate that rages across the playgrounds and living rooms of America. In fact, according to a 2009 GreatSchools and Harris Interactive poll, nearly one in four parents are currently considering switching their child's school either from private to public or public to private as a result of the economy.
What's better for your youngster? How can you compare private and public schools when they seem so disparate? Is it like comparing apples and oranges — two different things that can't be fairly held to the same standards?
As any parent who has toured both kinds of school knows, it's not always easy to answer these questions. Many people have a bias one way or another. Some assume that private schools offer superior everything, justifying their tuition costs. Others contend that public schools provide more real-life experiences or, in some cases, more-developed specialty programs in athletics or science.
While this primer won't dare takes sides, it will touch on the most fundamental differences between public and private schools — as well as a few subtle distinctions that might make all the difference for your child.
The bottom line
The most obvious discrepancy between public and private schools comes down to cold, hard cash. The good news for parents is that public schools cannot charge tuition. The bad news is that public schools are complicated, often underfunded operations influenced by political winds and shortfalls. Financed through federal, state, and local taxes, public schools are part of a larger school system, which functions as a part of the government and must follow the rules and regulations set by politicians.
In contrast, private schools must generate their own funding, which typically comes from a variety of sources: tuition; private grants; and fundraising from parents, alumni, and other community members. (Ever wonder why private schools celebrate Grandparent's Day and public schools don't?) If...
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