Private School versus Public School

Private School versus Public School

Can’t decide whether to send your child to private school or public school? We asked moms to weigh in on the private school versus public school debate.

Student Teacher Ratio

This is one of the main reasons why some families opt to send their kids to private school.  The student teacher ratio is usually better in private schools.  And because of the lower student teacher ratio, your child may receive more personalized attention.  Some say that private school teachers are more nurturing because they do not have to handle as many students.  One thing to note is that it is important to check the student teacher ratio when touring private schools since not all private schools are created equal.

Public School Mom: “I was shocked to see Kindergarteners crying on the first day of school because they were lost after they got off the bus.  The school was understaffed and kids were getting lost on the first day of school.”

Balanced Class

Unlike public schools, private schools have the luxury of controlling class composition.  As a result, the class composition in private schools is generally more balanced-  gender balance, personality balance and sometimes racial balance.  This may not seem like a big deal but imagine your daughter stuck in a boy heavy class of very active boys.  Chances are your daughter will not receive the attention she needs and that the teachers will not be as patient.

Public school Mom: “I felt like my daughter was not getting the attention she deserved.  The teachers were too busy managing the boys in her class.”

Part of the Community

Public schools draw kids from the surrounding neighborhood while private school kids come from all over.   As a result, families whose children attend private schools miss out on tight community connections.  Chances are if your child is enrolled in private school, he or she can’t just bike over to a friend’s house to play because the friend may live in a different town.  Also, your family will be less integrated with the community.  Example, if your child participates in town sponsored sports or town camp, your private school child may not know as many kids.

Private School Mom: “Our neighborhood throws a party for the kids during Halloween.  We attend every year but we usually feel left out because all the kids know each other from the public schools.”

Special Education Programs

Believe it or not, many private schools are ill-equipped to accommodate kids with special needs.  If your child has a learning disability, you are better off sending your child to the public school system.  The public school district will provide resources and support for you and your child.  You can even apply for a teacher’s aide for your child.

Public School Mom: “My daughter has a learning disability and we received tremendous support from the staff and teachers at her school.”

Private School Mom: “Our private school did not have the resources to help my son so we had to move him to the public school system.”

School Bus Transportation

One of the advantages of going to public school is that kids can take the bus to school.  Plus there may be school bus transportation to after school programs at the YWCA, YMCA or Boys and Girls Club.  While if your child attends private school, there may or may not be school bus transportation. You will have to check with the school and the school district in your town to see if bus transportation is provided for private school kids.

Extended Day Programs and Vacation Camps

In many ways, attending public school is more suitable for households with two working parents.  If your child attends public school, you will generally have more choices for extended day programs which will allow you to pick your child up as late as 6:30pm.  Most public schools provide an extended day program or your child can take the school bus to after school programs at the YMCA, YWCA and Boys and Girls Club.  On the other hand, private schools generally have limited extended day programs and there is usually no bus transportation to take your child to programs at the YMCA, YWCA and Boys and Girls Club.   It’s the same with vacation camps.  Most vacation camp programs follow the public school calendar so public school families have places to send their kids to during school breaks and holidays.  Private school children may not have this option because their breaks may not coincide with the public school vacations.  As a results, private school kids are left with little to no vacation programs during the shorter breaks like President’s Day break, Spring break, etc.

Curriculum

Public schools are required to follow state curriculum guidelines and state assessments.  Because of this there is quality control at the public schools.  Private schools, on the other hand, are not necessarily required to follow state standards and are not required to administer standardized tests.  As a result, the quality of the curriculum can vary from one private school to another.  So you really have to do your due diligence when applying to private schools because not all private schools are created equal.

Private Catholic School Mom: “I am worried that the school is underfunded and may take short cuts on academics.  There is no one checking the curriculum.”

Teachers

Quality of teachers vary by schools.  Some teachers are nurturing while some teachers are not.  It is unfair to generalize that private school teachers are more nurturing than public school teachers because this may not be true in all cases.  You should do your due diligence- talk to other parents, visit schools to observe the teachers, ask questions about teacher retention rate.  Teacher retention rate can be a strong indicator in determining how happy teachers are teaching in that particular school.

Public School Mom: “You should ask for a teacher that is more nurturing.  Some teachers are more abrasive and you don’t want to get a yeller.”

So which is better, public school or private school?  Hopefully, if you’ve read up to this point, you realize that there is no single answer.  A lot of it depends on your personal situation and your child’s needs.  You should consider your child’s personality- does he/she need more attention (maybe you need to find a school with a lower student to teacher ratio)?  Does your child have a learning disability- then public school is probably a better option.  Do you and your spouse have inflexible work schedules- then you need to find a school with school bus transportation and extended day programs.  You have to consider the pros and cons of each type of school.  Go tour your local public schools and attend private school open houses.  If you are interested in a particular school, talk to as many parents as you can and try to solicit candid feedback.

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Which Westchester School Districts Provide School Bus Transportation?

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