Private and Public Schools Compared

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Private and Public Schools Compared
This table sets out the basic characteristics of private and public schools so that you can compare them.
This table will help you see at a glance how private schools compare with public schools. Use it to explore issues and to help answer questions which you have about private schools. A list of resources with supporting data and information is given at the end of the table.
  Private Schools Public Schools
Administration Local school support staff manage the day to day operations. Local school and district layers of administrative staff support the day to day operations.
Admissions Selective. Students must meet whatever admissions standards are set. Students must meet residency and age requirements. Students are admitted without regard to academic ability.
Arts All kinds of arts programs are essential in a private school education. Orchestras, bands and choirs are part of the performing arts offerings. Fine arts and theater are also part of the program. Arts programs are generally considered extras in a public school budget. They are usually the first area of expense to be cut when savings must be found.
Class Size Private schools generally have small classes with 12-15 students the norm. Depending on the staffing in a local school public schools can have as many as 25-35 students per class.
Curriculum Private schools teach the subjects they wish to teach as well as meeting the state minimums. They use a variety of assessment methods to determine how a child is performing. Public schools must teach what the state and the district board tell them to teach. In addition they must prepare students for state assessment testing on a regular basis.
Discipline Zero tolerance is the norm in most private schools. Students are governed by contract law and can be dismissed for cause. Discipline is always subject to due process and an individual student's rights under the Constitution. It can take weeks even months to resolve issues.
Extracurricular Activities Private schools usually mount a wide offering of activities depending on the kind of school and its program. Clubs and activities are considered extras. They tend to be reduced or cut when budgets are cut back.
Funding Sources Private schools rely on tuition and other fees, gifts and endowments for their operating revenues. They are generally tax-exempt as well. Public school districts derive their revenue from local property taxes and some state and federal aid.
Parental Involvement Parents are expected to be involved and supportive of their child's education. Parents are expected to be involved and supportive of their child's education.
Policy and Management Private schools typically are tax-exempt not for profit entities run by a board of directors or trustees. They operate under the terms of their charter as they see fit. Public schools are managed by an elected board of directors or members. Their meetings are governed by a host of state and local regulations and laws.
Single Sex Education Whether a private school is a boys' school or a girls' school is a decision made by the board of trustees. While there are some public single sex schools, they can be controversial depending on the feelings of the local populace.
Sports Sports are an integral part of a private school program. Coaching a sport is part of a private school teacher's responsibilities. Sports programs tend to be reduced or cut when budgets are cut back. Public school teachers are not required to coach a sport unless specified in their union contract.
Teachers Private school teachers do not belong to a union. They do not have to be certified and licensed though most private school teachers are certified and licensed. Public school teachers belong to a union except teachers in many charter schools. Public school teachers must be certified and licensed by the state in which they teach.
Transportation Parents drive their children to day school or pay for private carriers. Transportation is provided by the district.
Uniforms and Dress Codes Most private schools have a dress code. Many schools require students to wear uniforms. Dress codes and uniforms are controversial in the public school arena. Whether they exist depends on the stance of the local school board's policies.

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