Today parents have numerous choices for educating their children. Whether private, public, magnet, charter, or homeschool, the options for parents are readily available. However, one problem that many parents confront is knowing the difference between each type of school. Providing an education for your child is a privilege and a responsibility. As parents gain information about the differences between the schools, they make better choices for their child’s education.
Funding source: Public schools secure funding from government sources such as local, state, and federal funds, which receive the money from taxpayers.
Curriculum: Since public schools are receiving funds from taxpayer dollars through government resources, administrators and teachers must produce students who can pass the standardized tests given at the end of the year. For this reason, most states have adopted the Common Core Curriculum to ensure students will have passing scores. Several states are using the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) administered test for students. This highly-challenging test is an effort by the consortium to prepare students for college-level courses. Testing begins as young as the third grade. Here is more information on the PARCC test.
Flexibility/Choice: Due to the nature of the class size, state guidelines on curriculum requirements, and strict evaluation requirements, there is not as much flexibility as some students need. However, there are a few options parents have with the public school system. For example, children with any special needs have access to a separate classroom with other similar children.
Funding source: The funding for charter schools is the same as public schools; the government dispenses the money to the school.
Curriculum: The charter schools are similar to public schools in that they must answer to government officials concerning student progress. On the other hand, they can select the curriculum they choose, which is more indicative of a private school setting.
The Difference: The difference between public and charter schools is that, although charter schools are officially public and open to all students, they have the freedom to operate independently. This means they can run the school the way they want in terms of staffing, budget, curriculum, and so on, but they must subject themselves to periodic reviews. If the authorizing agency deems the school unfit or not progressing, then the school can be shut down.
Enrollment statistics: The number of students enrolled in a charter school in 2012-13 was 2.3 million.
Funding source: Magnet schools are public schools with a few differences (mentioned below), so the financial operations are similar, with funds coming from local, state, and federal funds.
Curriculum: Curriculum is where magnet schools diverge from the public school environment. A magnet school has a central subject or theme that students would be interested in. For example, some magnet schools focus on the sciences or the arts as their subject of interest. Students are drawn to the school due to this interest.
Enrollment statistics: The most current year available is 2010-11, in which just over 2 million students were enrolled. It’s important to note that while some magnet schools use a “lottery” system to enroll, others enforce a rigorous entrance exam.
Funding source: Private schools are the only educational entity not reliant on government sources for money. Funding comes from tuition, grants, donations, alumni, and endowments.
*Note: School vouchers (available in some states) are scholarships provided by the state and afford eligible students the opportunity to attend a private school.
Curriculum: The curriculum may vary from school to school. Private schools are not under any government regulations and do not accept funding, so they are free to delve into subjects not necessarily taught at public schools. Most private schools have a low student-to-teacher ratio, which means students receive extra academic attention or help when needed. Additionally, because of the low student-teacher ratio, teachers have an opportunity to get to know their students more personally.
Enrollment statistics: The private school sector includes 5.3 million students (2011-12). The student-to-teacher ratio was at 12.5 in 2011.
Finally, if a parent decides homeschooling is the best solution for their child's needs, the parent decides the curriculum and structure of the class. Whatever option you choose for your child learning is an innate gift that builds confidence and happiness in the child. Happy learning!