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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Charter – Public – Private: What’s The Difference?

It is important as a parent to understand all the options of schooling for your child. When I was a child, there was only one choice and that was the school down the street in my neighborhood or possibly a parochial school. However, things have changed and you now have a number of options when choosing a school for your child. School choices range from public schools to private schools to charter schools to homeschooling. And -- then there are magnet schools, visual arts schools, prep schools and many others. It’s critical to your child’s success and your happiness to find the right “fit” for your child.


It can become quite confusing when picking the right school. To help make this process a little easier and less overwhelming, I have listed a description for each of the major types of schools:

Public Schools
Description – Public schools are generally your typical neighborhood school. Grade spans vary, with some public schools housing grades kindergarten through 8th grade, kindergarten through 3rd grade, 7th and 8th grades only or high school.

Funding - Public schools are funded through state and federal money. Public schools can also be funded through grants.

Regulations - Public schools must follow all state and federal regulations regarding schools, including the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Public schools must provide services for special needs children, resources for homeless families and Title I resources. Public schools are required to administer high stakes tests for all students.

Enrollment Policies - Public schools enroll any student that applies provided the parent has the appropriate paperwork and the child has not been expelled from another school.

Teacher Qualifications - All teachers must be certified and highly qualified in public schools.

Private Schools – Parochial and Other

Description – Grade spans in private schools vary. Many private schools have smaller class sizes than public schools. Generally, private school philosophy and the curriculum revolve around a particular focus. Examples include religious schools, college prep schools and schools for special needs children.

Funding - Private schools are funded by parents who pay tuition and through grants and donations.

Regulations - Private schools do not have to follow the No Child Left Behind Act, provide services for special needs children, resources for homeless families or Title I resources, although some do. School regulations are generally enforced by the agency that sponsors the school.

Enrollment Policies - Private schools enroll students based on the school’s particular enrollment policy. Many private schools enroll students based on the student’s application, previous success at school, test scores, religious philosophy or a lottery.

Teacher Qualifications – Teacher qualifications are governed by the agency supporting the school and state law. Teachers do not have to be certified, however many schools require that they are.

Charter Schools

Description – Charter schools are public schools with a twist. They must follow all the regulations that public schools do, however charter schools are “owned” by a corporation or non-profit company. The philosophy of a charter school is based on the charter that is written for the school. Most charter schools have a particular focus, such as college prep, visual arts, career and technical, or at-risk.  Grade spans vary, with some public schools housing grades kindergarten through 8th grade, kindergarten through 3rd grade, 7th and 8th grades only or high school.

Funding – Similar to public schools, charter schools are funded with state and federal money, however the funding level is generally less than public schools. In many states there is no facilities funding. Most charter schools also rely on community donations and grants.

Regulations - Charter schools must follow all state and federal regulations regarding schools, including the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Charter schools must provide services for special needs children, resources for homeless families and Title I resources. Charter schools are required to administer high stakes tests for all students.

Enrollment Policies - Charter schools enroll any student that applies provided the parent has the appropriate paperwork, unless there are no openings in the school or the child has been expelled from another school. Many of the top charter schools have waiting lists for students wanting to enroll.

Teacher Qualifications – Certification requirements for teachers vary from state to state. However, if the charter school is receiving Title I funds the teachers must be highly qualified.



(This list is for information only to help you in your decision making when choosing a school for your child. It is not meant as a legal opinion.)

Once you choose the type of school you’re looking you will need to narrow it down to that one school that is a perfect fit for your child. In next week’s post, I’ll be discussing what to look for when choosing a school.

3 comments:

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  2. Great list, Jan! Here's another one: It's Not All in the Name. Just the term charter or private doesn't mean the school is a success. school funding

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  3. Thanks for your comment. I agree completely! The success of a school is not in the name or the box that it's in. The success of a school is what's inside. You might enjoy an article I wrote on my other blog, www.kidswithoutstuff.com titled, "A School is More than a Building."

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