Are Private Schools Really Better Than Public?

Should you be shelling out big bucks so your kids can go to a private school? Here’s why the answer may be yes…and no.

Are Private Schools Really Better Than Public? Photo (cc) by Phil Roeder

Parenting seems designed to present one difficult decision after another. It isn’t long after you decide which child care provider to use that you are faced with where to send your small prodigies to school.

Public schools are close, convenient and oh so cheap, but private schools tantalize parents with the promise of a better start on a successful future. So which do you choose?

There is no clear-cut answer (shocking, I know), but keep reading for a little guidance to make your decision easier.

Public schools clearly win when it comes to price

Really, in terms of dollars and cents, there is no competition. If you’re price conscious, public schools win hands down. After all, how do you beat free?

Oh, yes, I know. Many public schools are no longer truly free. Each year, you get a list of classroom supplies to buy, and there may be the unspoken expectation you’ll have a computer for your students to use at home by the time they are in middle school. Other public schools charge for “extras” that could include everything from transportation to sports to standardized testing for the college-bound kids. And don’t forget that the PTA will be asking for your generous donation each year, in its effort to cover the cost of an orchestra instructor, a guidance counselor, library renovation or something else the district can’t afford.

But in the grand scheme of things, it really isn’t much compared to what you’d be shelling out at private schools, where you’d have tuition plus all of those other extras.

Why parents are willing to pay

So if public schools are free, why on earth does anyone want to pay to send child to a private school?

The answer is hardly financial. According to a 2013 report from The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, school environment and management appear to be foremost on parents’ minds when they are filling out those private school applications. In a survey of parents participating in the Georgia GOAL Scholarship Program, which awards money to offset private tuition, these are the five top reasons given for avoiding the public school system:

  • Better student discipline: 50.9 percent
  • Better learning environment: 50.8 percent
  • Smaller class sizes: 48.9 percent
  • Improved student safety: 46.8 percent
  • More individual attention: 39.3 percent

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