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A Guide to Private Versus Public Schools

public vs. private schools

Finding the right school for your child can be a daunting task, especially in a country that’s not your own. The United States offers various K–12 school options, including public and private schools. In this post, we explore and discuss the differences between the two.


Public schools receive money from the government, which means they are typically free or have low tuition fees. 

Generally, private schools do not receive government funding and instead rely on tuition fees and donations from individuals and organizations. Several factors contribute to a private school’s tuition cost, including quality of instruction, breadth of programs, and facilities. Many private schools offer financial aid and scholarships. Always check with the school’s Admission Office for support options. 


Most public schools serve students within a neighborhood boundary, and students must be within the zoning district of the public school. Private schools are not location-dependent—students and families come from a wider radius.


Private schools have an application process that can include a tour, application, academic assessment, and interview. Admission can be selective with specific criteria based on educational philosophy, diversity, student conduct, or academic goals. 

Public schools educate all students regardless of academic profile, religious affiliation, or developmental level.


Public schools follow a state-mandated curriculum designed to meet the educational standards of the state. 

Private schools do not have a required curriculum and therefore can cater to specific academic interests and may have specialized programs that are not offered in public schools. Private schools may also prioritize cocurricular activities, languages, and other aspects of education that public schools cannot accommodate. They also have the freedom to integrate intellectual, philosophical, and religious programming into the curriculum beyond state regulations. 

Special Programming

Special programming can impact overall student success and should be considered when evaluating private versus public schooling. Public schools have a responsibility to teach all students benchmark curriculum—often leaving less interpretation for specialized learning. Depending on the district and available funding, they most likely will offer programs for children with learning differences—whether academic or developmental. 

Private schools will most often have specialized programs that vary depending on the area of focus, such as religious instruction, concentration in the arts or other skills, or a military program. 

School and Class Size

Public schools have an average class size of 24 students and a student-to-teacher ratio of 16 to one. Private schools tend to have a smaller average class size of 18 students and a student-to-teacher ratio of 12 to one. 

When inquiring at a school, be sure to ask these questions.

  • How many children will the classroom teacher be responsible for? 
  • What is the overall student-to-teacher ratio? 
  • What amount of individualized attention does each student receive? 

Many parents choose a school for their child’s learning style and family values. Be sure to research your options. This helps you select the best learning environment for your child’s needs and ensures their future is bright.

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