When you make a choice about which kind of school to attend in the USA, either for yourself or for your child, it’s important that you know the differences between them to make the best decision. Education in the United States is incredibly varied, and there are plenty of choices, depending on your educational philosophy, budget, and lifestyle.

Public Schools

The best thing about public schools are that they are free. They receive funding from local, state, and national sources. They are also regulated by each state’s department of education, so they are in the eye of the public. Some advantages of public schools are that students have access to more resources, such as better science and technology labs, specialized courses, special education, English language learner support, and magnet charter schools that focus on a particular area (such as college preparation, music, technology, etc.) If you or your child is an athlete public schools are often watched more closely by college recruiters than private schools. Even if you are thinking of homeschooling, online public school is available for most grades in all states. (Texas online public school doesn’t start until third grade, for example.)

Some of the drawbacks of public schools include that they are not all created equally. The ones on neighborhoods with more tax revenue and community support tend to have higher standardized test scores, graduation rates, access to specialized courses (such as Advanced Placement classes, for which students can receive college credit if they pass an exam), better physical resources (sports equipment, etc.). There is also high teacher turnover in some poorer districts, meaning you’ll have new, inexperienced teachers every couple of years. There is also a heavy emphasis on standardized testing in the curriculum of public schools because states grade schools by how well their students perform, and teachers are also evaluated on how well their students do on these tests.

Private Schools

If you want a different type of environment for your child to attend school than public school, private school may be the way to go. While private schools typically require tuition be paid, the schools are smaller, and there is more attention paid to individual students as class sizes tend to be smaller. No matter your particular educational philosophy, you’re likely to find a private school that matches it. For example, there are Montessori, Waldorf, and half-day private schools (so that parents can homeschool their children for some subjects and have more control over their schedules). (Note that there are some specialized public schools as well, such as the Montessori public schools in Denver.) Additionally, you can find plenty of online private schools for all grade levels.

The downsides of public school include that they may not all have access to the types of resources and funding that public schools have. They are also expensive, and you may or may not qualify for any type of financial assistance. Some schools do not offer financial assistance at all. If you or your child is an athlete, there may not be much exposure to college recruiters if you or they attend private school.

Carefully consider your educational priorities, what types of schools are available in your area, and your budget before you choose a school. Check out its ratings, and talk to parents who have sent their children to the schools you’re considering to get a better idea of whether you want to go or to send your child there.

Author: Leyla Norman
Leyla is a certified English as a second language teacher as well as a certified PK-6 and 7-12 English teacher. She lives in Texas with her husband, and three children (The twins keep her the most busy!). She is also a freelance education writer, private English tutor, and student in a master's of Applied Linguistics -TESOL program. She is the owner of EmpowerEnglishTutoring.com.