According to the latest study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), randomly selected 15 year old students in America are almost average compared to counterparts in 70 participating countries. Just average. Not good.
Debate rages in the country to figure out how to get those scores up. Ignoring government attempts to regulate our kids into better test scores, many parents are having the public vs private school debate.
Many believe it is better to send their children to private schools. After all, public schools have to cater to the lowest common denominator – right? Remember No Child Left Behind?
Because private schools are more elite and selective, many think they turn out better scholars, but they come at higher out of pocket costs, parents end up paying the added school taxes anyway and fund raisers can consume a lot of parental time.
A report called “Comparing Private Schools and Public Schools Using Hierarchical Linear Modeling,“from the U.S. Department of Education shows that there’s not as big a difference between public and private school performance as many believe – at least when it comes to reading and math.
In a Times article Are Private Schools Really Better, the author quotes Jack Jennings statement in the press release about the report: “Contrary to popular belief, we can find no evidence that private schools actually increase student performance. Instead, it appears that private schools simply have higher percentages of students who would perform well in any environment based on their previous performance and background.”
The USDA study tries to account for things like ethnicity, family income, and English language proficiency, and the skill and experience of the teaching staff.
What are your schooling choices?
As a parent, you want to try to give your child every advantage you can. What are the schooling choices for your child and can you afford your preferred option?
Each American child is required by the laws of the state in which they live to go to school. As a result local, state and federal taxes are allocated to providing the needed facilities, resources and staffing. As you know, each neighborhood has it’s own schools, supported by local county school district taxation. Even in the same county, some schools are better than others.
Many people carefully select the location of their home, to make sure it is in the best possible school district. Taxation in these best districts is typically higher than elsewhere, to help keep the schools rated as ‘best’.
Your costs for public school include the possible extra cost you may pay for housing in the school district as well as the local taxes you pay to support the schools. You pay these costs whether or not your children are currently attending the schools!
Public Charter Schools
In many metropolitan areas, alternatives to the traditional local school districts have arisen, with the concept of charter schools. These schools have a particular set of guidelines which they attempt to meet (their charter). Some focus on particular areas of study, such as vocational, or mathematics, the theater or the arts.
Your costs for public charter schools are essentially the same as public local schools.
Private Religious Schools
Although many religions offer schooling, the Catholic religion is most predominant – exerting great pressure on parish members to support the parish school and send their children through it – primarily for the religious education.
According to the National Catholic Educational Associate site elementary school tuition averages $3,383 with the freshman year in high school averaging $8,787 per child. In richer parishes however, those figures can multiply fast. We have one family member paying more than $14,000 a year in high school tuition per child!
Private Non-Religious Schools
Of course, anyone can seek out a private school. “Medium tuition”, according to Great Schools “for their member private day schools in 2008-2009 in the United States was $17,441. Tuition for boarding schools was close to $37,017. (Of the 28,384 private schools in the United States, about 1,050 are affiliated with the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS)). Average tuition for nonmember schools is substantially less: Day schools charge $10,841 and boarding schools $23,448.”
Home Schooling is Another Route.
Costs include materials, supplies, environmental issue resolution (lighting, ergonomic furniture and etc), opportunity cost of the parent staying home to teach, and hiring of teachers for advanced subjects that the parents can’t teach.
According to BankRate Adding up the Cost of Home Schooling “Clive Belfield, professor of economics at Queens College, City University of New York, estimates that the cost for parents who keep a careful accounting is about $2,500 for a family’s first child and slightly less for the next one or two home-schooled kids.” But, this doesn’t include the cost of tutors for those advanced subjects the parent can’t teach. Belfield also claims that most parents give up on home schooling once they have three or more students.
It’s a Personal Issue.
In our family, the public vs. private debate is very personal and intense. For us, it has been mainly a debate between public and Catholic private schooling. My Mom was a public elementary school teacher. At the time I went to grade school and high school, and in the neighborhood in which we lived, the public schools were better. The teachers had been trained and certified, as opposed to housewife assistants and nuns without educational backgrounds. The resources were superior and the students tested better.
Fate would have it that I fell in love with a man raised as a strict Catholic kid – parochial schools for him all the way through high school, with a year out to try out the seminary! So when our two boys came along, the debate began. I wanted public schools, he wanted private. At the time we were dirt poor and he was disillusioned with the church so the boys attended public schools. During grade school, we were in a not so great school district, but we both showed keen interest in the boys education and made sure they knew the materials at each grade level. Later, when they were in junior high and high school, we moved to a fantastic public school district and they both continued to do well. Both were in advanced placement classes and both earned college credit while in high school.
Now, along comes the next generation and our non-Catholic boy marries a good Catholic girl. She wants to send their offspring to Catholic schools, he doesn’t. They do live in a fine public school district and ended up sending their kids through public schools (at least so far). They too work hard to make sure the kids are learning what they should be learning.
In my experience, the key to successful learning and attaining educational and life goals is parental involvement, mentoring and expectation setting along with positive reinforcement for success and help with failure.
So I think the choice you make depends….it depends on what your local public schools are like, it depends on how much money and time you want to spend on educating your kids, and it depends on how much religion you want included in your child’s daily learning. It also depends on how well or poorly your child integrates with the school you choose. But most of all, I think a quality education depends on you, the parent.
Where do you stand on the public vs. private school debate? Are there other schooling choices out there?