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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Rahm Emanuel, Private or Public?

What are we to do?

Private versus Public

Some differences between public and private schools are obvious. But deciding what's right for your child entails shedding light on the subtle distinctions many parents ignore. It's a debate that rages across the playgrounds and living rooms of America. 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.

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 or political views. They also have a hard time firing bad teachers, due to the Unions. Private schools may fire those they feel are not meeting their standards.

In contrast, private schools must generate their own funding, which typically comes from a variety of sources: tuition; private grants; and fund-raising from parents, alumni, and other community members. Ever wonder why private schools celebrate Grandparent's Day and public schools don't?    

The potential benefits of private schools accrue from their independence. Private schools do not receive tax revenues, so they do not have to follow the same sorts of regulations and bureaucratic processes that govern  public schools. This allows many private schools to be highly specialized, offering differentiated learning, advanced curriculum. There is also the benefit of having more control over their students. Private schools do not have to keep them if they don't follow the rules. Which there are many from dress codes (dress codes and uniforms for another day) to conduct rules. Most private schools make their middle and high school students sign a code of conduct contract. This is binding. They are also judged by a jury of their peers, when they brake the rules. I believe that this helps them when it comes to real life experiences. By example, the employees that complain about the company having a dress code. If you sign an agreement to work there and decide not to follow the rules then you must leave.

Another obvious distinction between public and private schools results from their respective admissions  procedures. By law, public schools must accept all children. In many cases, enrolling your child involves little more than filling out a few forms and providing proof of your address to the local school district office. In practice, however, getting your child into the public school of his or her choice can be much more complicated. Because not all public schools have resources for helping students with special needs, enrolling a child with a learning disability or other disorder may entail a more complex process. Similarly, in school districts with "school choice" policies, the procedure for finding a public school may require that parents enter a lottery to gain admission for their child into their top pick. Finally, at the high school level, many districts in larger metropolitan areas offer special schools with competitive enrollment based on students' GPAs or artistic portfolios.

Private schools, by their very definition, are selective. They are not obligated to accept every child, so getting admitted may involve in-depth applications with multiple interviews, essays, and testing achievement but also  the special attributes (or assets) of the student and their parents.

While most people assume that teachers at private schools are as qualified as those at public ones, it's important to note that all teachers in a public school are usually state certified or, at a minimum, working toward certification. Certification ensures that a teacher has gone through the training required by the state, which includes student teaching and course work. Teachers in private schools may not be required to have certification. Instead, they must have a subject-area expertise and an undergraduate or graduate degree in the subject they teach.

Private school students typically score higher than public school students on standardized tests. Researchers found that private schools came out ahead in 11 of 12 comparisons of students.

Many states recognize the value of small classes and have provided funding to keep class sizes small in grades K-3. As students advance to higher grades, class size tends to get bigger in public schools, especially in large school districts and urban schools. While many private schools provide small classes with low student-to-teacher ratios.

In my opinion, the first, most important issue to consider when comparing private vs public schools is not the cost but the environment in which your child will be in for most of his/her days, for about 13+ years of their formation. The education environment is a huge factor in how kids will turn out, and a private or home school gives a greater control to the parent. Kids learn by observing people around them - adults do too, but we've learned a lot by the time we are parents and I like to think we are wiser than we were years back. I could write for hours on the subject, but I think I made my point. The money is to some degree irrelevant when considering my children's education." There are many private school that have grants.

At the end of the day - it comes down to the results that the school achieves both academically, athletically, culturally, and all the areas that matter to you. It is high standards in these areas that make the difference.
An example of a private school success story is a private school in Pennsylvania . It's SAT scores, (89% were accepted into Ivy League school)  National Merit Finalists, numbers of scholarships etc. rank with some of the best schools in the country. It also has one of the best athletic programs in the state. And culturally - the school is rich in cultural tradition.

Don't rely on hearsay and rumor when it comes to deciding between private and public. Visit the schools and ask the teachers lots of questions. At the end of the day, the best school for your child is a highly personal decision based on your family; your values; and, most important, the special needs, idiosyncrasies, and interests of your child. Let the debate rage on, but don't forget about the one person for whom this decision is far more than sandbox banter.

So, what do you think is the pick for the children of Chicago's Mayor, Rahm Emanuel? He wouldn't say.


  1. great post. schooling is a big question and very important one.

  2. Deb, great post! Where we live, we have the city school system (which we pay tuition to go to if we don't live in the city), the county school system, and then private schools. All of them offer certain advantages. Even having those available, I have home schooled my daughter this year due to issues in the school system and her special needs. That has been difficult for us as most home schools, if not through your local school system, do not provide or recognize special needs. It has been a challenge.

  3. This was the hardest decision for me, public vs private. In the end we went private. It's not perfect (nothing is) and sometimes I have questioned my decision, but the my kids are too deep in now (one just graduated) the other has a ways to go, to move them. For any parents on the brink of deciding I hope they read you post. Well informed. (I saw that your new to FB blogicity...)