Catholic Versus Public School

Updated on June 18, 2010
L.D. asks from McKees Rocks, PA
20 answers

Hi there-
I am struggling with a big decision: should I send my daughter to Catholic or public school?

We live in a very good school district, however I have very strong reservations about some of the indoctrination that public school brings. Our church has a school (K-8). I have spoken to several parents of students from the school and they absolutely love it. Seems like a no-brainer, huh?

I guess there are 3 things that are causing me to pause: 1. Will my daughter be missing out on certain academic/technological advances if she were to go to Catholic school? 2: What will happen when it's time for 9th grade and she has to go to public school? 3. Are local school districts responsible for providing realted services (like OT) to students who are residents but go to a catholic school?

If anyone has experience with any of this, I would greatly appreciate your outlook, opinions, and/or advice. I also welcome your general experiences with Catholic school education in general.
Thank you!

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

Featured Answers



answers from Scranton on

How about homeschooling? There are tons of Catholic Homeschoolers out there. It would be much cheaper and you can teach them what you feel led to teach

More Answers



answers from Washington DC on

I was a student of Catholic schools (from K through 12th grades) and went on to become a public school teacher. When I entered the public school system I couldn't believe all of the technology and extra services that were provided to the students. In the Catholic grade school I attended we had a music teacher and a gym teacher, but it was my homeroom teacher that taught us art and computers. They had no backgrounds in these areas but here they were teaching us. The music teacher was a nun and most of the music taught to us was songs we sang in Mass.

As for teacher certifications, to teach in a public school, you have to renew your license every 5 years through further education. Some Catholic schools do not require this. Two of my friends teach in Catholic schools, and never had to renew their license. They received one when they graduated college and that's it. As a public school teacher, I have renewed mine 3 times already. Also, some Catholic school teachers only have college degrees and no teaching certification at all. States do not mandate the requirements of private schools like they do public schools.

As for services like OT, Speech, etc., many Catholic schools do not provide these. However, since you are a tax payer, the local school district does. If your child requires any of these services it would most likely be up to you to take the child to the public school to receive them. The teachers are not required to go into the Catholic School. I was the SPED teacher in the public school and I did service a Catholic School student. I wrote the IEP and provided it to the CS to implement and the mother had to take her out of school for part of the day once a week so I could follow up with her. If you think your daughter will need any outside service and the Catholic School does not have these teachers, than you need to make sure you are available to get her to the public school for them.

I live in a good public school area now and also have a Catholic School in my area that goes to 8th grade. I am not even considering that option. This is a personal decision that only you can make.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

Disclosure statement: I went to 12 years of Catholic school, my son just completed 13 years (including kindergarten) and my daughter is completing her 10th year (including kindergarten). My husband is a product of the Philadelphia public school system. It was a no brainer for him that I had a much better education than he did.

There will be frustrations with either choice, but I have found my interactions with Catholic school administrators much easier to handle than my (limited) School District interactions. Please note that my comments are comparing Catholic schools with Philadelphia public schools.

One thing that seems to stand out most prominently is that Catholic school parents, on average, care more about their children's education. The children are more disciplined and don't have to deal with a lot of the same baloney that goes on in public school classrooms.

As for academics, I can say that Catholic schools do not have a gifted program. If your child is tested as gifted, she will split her time with the Catholic school and the local public school for the gifted class.

Catholic schools teach to the middle; from what I hear, public schools teach to the lowest level in the class. Catholic school teachers will work with you and your child if you need more help or need to be challenged more. (My children were on the bright side, and most of their teachers pushed them to do better and expected more of them. Shall I mention here that both of my children received academic scholarships for high school?)

The grade school my children attended has a computer lab and a computer class where they were taught basic computer skills up to PowerPoint presentations, over to safe internet searching, etc. Not sure what is available in public schools -- could be more, the same, or less -- I just don't know.

You are allowed to ask your local public school and the Catholic school what they offer. I know the Catholic school would love to talk to you; I would hope the public school would do the same.

As for attending public high school, ask the Catholic school what most kids do when it comes time for high school. Where do they go? Not all go to Catholic high school although I imagine the majority does. Find out what the local public high school is and ask them about what they offer, how they handle discipline (and do they utilize a metal detector), what is expected of a student entering 9th grade. Some public schools have language requirements that may extend into high school. Not all do, but it would be good to know.

As for school districts providing related services, I believe that it is required, but it's not always convenient for Catholic school kids. Don't be afraid to call the school district to ask for what you need. You could ask about what is provided, where, etc. and get that information. Then you could ask how those services are provided for a child not attending a public school. May throw them for a loop and you may need to ask for clarification and confirmation since not all school district employees know how to handle non-public school student questions. Another story for another time, but trust me that it can be difficult, time consuming, frustrating, etc.

It's good to get advice from the people on this forum -- I've read many good responses to other questions. But ultimately you will need to ask your questions of the schools that are your choices.

Good luck to you.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

Private schools generally have the same or better academics than public schools. Private and public high schools generally love getting students from good junior high programs, regardless of where they are from, and the school district where your church is will be required to provide services needed for your daughter, although these are extremely limited (no funding) and generally only available for children that test in the bottom 5%. (Sadly, right now this is the norm for all children in our state.) So, in other words, don't count on the district to provide services for your daughter, no matter what school she is in. But, if you think she might qualify, your church school is responsible for contacting the district and setting up consultation, testing, and services.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

we live in an 'alright' public school district. we toured it, talked to a few teachers, talked to the principal and it was a no-brainer: catholic school for us.
reasons: smaller number of kids per classroom (hence, more one on one attention given to children). more personable, and frankly, if parents pay for education, the quality of kids going there would be better for my children. i fear peer influences, bullying, and these get squashed in catholic schools.
OTs get provided through public district, you may taxes, therefore you're entitled to free services for your child if he/she qualifies.
our catholic school is small, less than 400 kids, goes from K through 8th grade. then i plan on sending them to catholic high school. i didn't do it for religious education, i chose our school because it had 16 kids per classroom compared to 25 in public school. my children love the school, they love their uniforms. i pay about 6k for two children a year. we get the books for free through public school district (everybody gets them that way). there are fundraisers throughout the year, 2 being mandatory, about 50 each. i can afford that and more.
a neighbor of mine sends her child to public school. she resented the fact that i chose catholic school for my kids. she praises out local school yet says she'd never go on playdates with kids' from her daughter's class (really? hm.).
ask any questions you may have. my kids are finishing kindergarten.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

You've got good responses here, lots to consider, and I'll just give my .02. We too were worried about some of the indoctrination we were seeing...and were forced to look at some of these same issues.

My kids have gone to Catholic school, not a parish one though. I'll have four in there in the Fall, Kinder, 1st, 3rd and 4th grades. I couldn't be happier. When compared academically to same age group children, my children were above the public school standard. Public were still teaching the letters at end of K, when my kindergartener was reading already. Math too was above public norm. Yes, depending on the school, all the tech advances might not be there, however, the level of academics were not up to snuff in our area, and that was more important to us.

Our Catholic school might be the exception to the rule, because yes, bullying and misbehavior are everywhere, however, the teachers and administration take a strong stance against it, working to teach Catholic/Christian values...that's not gonna happen in public least not with a spiritual focus.

When 9th grade comes about, is there Catholic H.S. in your area? It might be worth the search, as even in H.S. they will get better academics and be accepted into better colleges, with opportunties to earn scholarships. At the set you are building their academic resume for a future which competes to get into good colleges and obtain scholarships. It's an investment, as it will be more expensive for sure.

Overall, I think parents have to look at their priorities, what most important to you? For us it was good academics, with an emphasis on Catholic formation. For students coming out of our Catholic School at 8th grade they test out of many courses and end up in Honors classes in H.S. Our school is currently looking into the tech advancements, so hope is coming.

Other things such as teaching musical instruments, we're not there yet, however those types of things can be taught at home with private teacher....if that's important to you.

Overall, I suggest you investigate your public and Catholic schools in your area, and see what's available to you, then make your best decision. We actually MOVED to a new location for a good school for our kids. It was the best decision and we don't regret it for a minute.
good luck

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

1. Yes--maybe--mostly depends on your district and the private school!
2. She'll adjust. My niece just started the public high school after 8 yrs at a private Christian school, where she was mercilessly bullied (YES!). She LOVES the public high school! Don't assume a private Catholic school will "squelch" bullying and meanness by any stretch.
3. Yes, but you will need to advocate/fight for services anywhere. Very few kids get services through school.

ADDED--we live in a pretty good public school district, so my son goes to the public elementary school.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

Hi L.,

I would take a tour of the Catholic school if I were you. We have some good Catholic schools in our area, but we also have some bad ones. Our public school system, however, has the newest and best of everything. So yes, she may miss out on that if your Catholic school has not kept up with technology. Our school also offers foreign language, orchestra and band and an art program. My friends with kids in Catholic school do not receive this.

Like you, our public school is a good one. There is no "indoctrination" going on there and if it is in your district, you need to address it with the principal. Have you witnessed this, or did you hear about it through the grapevine?

Your public school must provide related services, it's the law. We have kids from the local Catholic schools at our school all of the time for reading, OT and PT services.

If it's an issue of faith, then it's a no brainer for you, the Catholic school is the way to go. If it's an issue of academics, then you need to ask all of the questions you would ask of a public school to your Catholic school. Having a conversation with the principal or a teacher at the Catholic school will help you to compare the two.

Most everyone I know that attended a Catholic school has had a positive experience. Some of them have put their own kids in a public school because it was better choice for them and some have kept their kids at a Catholic school because it was a better choice for them.

It's a personal decision and once you have all of the information you need, I'm sure the decision will come to you. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Allentown on

Hi, L.:

What is your purpose for wanting to send your daughter to
Catholic School?

Religious schools have everything public school has in addition, Catholic School teaches the spiritual side to education.

There are Catholic High Schools.

Good luck.



answers from New York on

First let me say that I went to Catholic school from 1st to 12th grade. My husband went to public school. I did receive a better education, but that was then. I also live in an area where the zoned public schools are top rated, so we decided to send my kids to public school and save money for college. My kids are sooooo well rounded and I don't regret the decision. Moral values are taught at home where they should be and they get religious instruction at CCD for two hours a week. I couldn't ask for better classmates for my kids. The families are involved in the community and in the school. I understand that it is not this way everywhere. So you need to check out all your options. You know your kids--just decide what is best for them and good luck!



answers from Kansas City on

I went to public school, but in an extremely small Catholic town and we still had religion class in the morning before going to public school. I wish we could afford to send our daughter to Catholic school, so she could be with a smaller group of kids like I was, but public school isnt terrible. You should still be able to get her into a sunday school, or something to keep up with her religious education if she's in public school.



answers from Harrisburg on

We have found in our area that Catholic schools do not have the same funding nor the staff as in public schools. If your child excels, a Catholic school may not have the systems in place to meet your child's needs. For example at our Public elementary school our children are tested ( with out them realizing) at the end of each term in reading and math. They are then moved accordingly. This allows them to meet new teachers and students in their grade. This is a smooth transition. The nice thing about it too is they are not labeled " advanced class" when they are ahead or "acedemically challenged" when behind. They are moved with their classmates which is important to me that they are placed with students of the same maturity level ( not bumped a grade up or down for those specific classes). At the other end of the spectrum if your child needs tutoring it is readily available during school hours. For example my daughter is a twin and in her earlier years at school she relied on her brother to tell her what " special" that day was, to tell her the homework assignments, and her work showed she wasn't proforming at her full potential. With the recommendation from a teacher to move the twins into separate classes and some tutoring she went from proforming below level to above level within a year.

I also know parents of children that have special needs. The schools work very hard to included services or resources for them and their needs.

We too weighed our option, but after talking to people who already experienced first hand, we made the best decision for us. I'm sure there are many people who will be pro Catholic schools. Do what is best for you by weighing the pros and cons. Just remember you are not stuck with your decision. You can change your mind. My children are always excited when a new child comes to school, it's a chance to make a new friend!



answers from Dallas on

We had this choice to make as well. Our church has a wonderful school, but my husband feels that people need to invest their time in the public schools to help support the system. After we toured both schools, I fell in love with the public school. I am sad that my child won't get the Catholic teachings as part of her daily school routine, but that's also my job in the home.

I will add that public schools do have to provide OT and speech and those services to the children who reside in the district whether they attend public schools or not. Several private school students receive speech therapy at my daughter's public school.

Hope this helps!



answers from Chicago on

Whether your daughter misses out on certain things will depend on the catholic school you send her too. My older 3 kids went to catholic school from k - 8. they didn't miss anything the school had , music, art, computer classes and had football, basketball, cheerleading, volleyball and track. so all of those things were covered, girl/boy scouts and brownies also covered.

in 9th grade we gave our kids the option of public/private one chose to go on to an all boy military catholic highschool the others chose public. the only issue with public in that respect is they were behind education wise to where my kids were. not really a bad thing as they were able to stay ahead of the pack so to speak grade wise. down side of it was there was not really any family interaction in the public schools at the catholic schools you have parents in volunteering for everything so they are there they know your kids. school is generally smaller also. public schools are huge and not the same one on one as catholic school

public schools are still responsible for supplying things like ot, speech therapy etc... you will have to pay the school district fees and go through the whole iep plan etc and get it put into place. you don't ask this in your questions but let me put it out there. most catholic schools don't supply stuff for special needs. they just don't have the money for it. my youngest didn't go to private school for just this reason. the public school has to supply whta you need but they make it very hard for you to get it and still send your child to private. also the private school balks at your child coming and going for those things and he/she misses stuff in his regular day.



answers from Columbus on

We don't live in a great public school district, so Catholic schools were our choice. I went to Catholic schools through 8th grade when my family moved to another state. Although there was a Catholic high school in our new city, the public high school was rated much higher and my parents chose to send me to the public school. It wasn't a hard transition for me at all. It really wasn't much different at all other than the lack of religious education. I loved my Catholic school days, and my public school days!



answers from San Antonio on

I went to Catholic school for elementary then public school. I had a fantastic education and have done really well in college because of it.

Here's how I would answer your questions:

1. Sure, but she'll get other stuff so it's a trade off, and IMHO not a bad one.
2. She'll be fine.
3. At least where I live, yes. Here it is the district where the school is located that provides special services instead of your home district. Ask your local public school and they will tell you.

Good luck.



answers from Johnstown on

I graduated from catholic school and I loved it. It was my choice to go there (went to public school K-8) and absolutely hated middle school. Told my mom that if I had to go to the high school I was quitting. My graduating class had only 36 kids. The classes are so much smaller & the teachers are given more one on one time with the students. Learning is easier & because the classes are smaller they are given more opportunities that the public schools aren't (ie: field trips). My husband & I want to send our child to catholic school but it probably won't be until 6th grade only because we financially can't afford K-12. When the time comes for him to go to school though, I will be looking into tuition assistance b/c if we can he will go to catholic school.



answers from Allentown on

Every Catholic school is different so you really need to check yours out. My son just completed 5th grade in a Catholic school and I have another one entering Kindergarten. Originally my older one began Catholic school because our school district isn't a good one but now I wouldn't have it any other way! Even if we moved to the BEST district he would still be going to Catholic school.

Our school does have classes from Kind. on up, software programs for Math and Reading, upper grades use use SmartBoards in the classroom, etc. We also have a music program and the kids can begin playing an instrument in 4th grade (brass, woodwinds, strings, though.) We have a different music teacher for the weekly music class. We have an Art teacher, gym teacher, and librarian. Our 3rd through 8th grades see the Spanish teacher once a week. We have an impressive Science lab too.

My Kindergartener will be receiving speech therapy for 30 min weekly at the school. We just finished his IEP. I don't think an OT comes to the school right now but I don't know if they can't or we don't have a need now. Small school.....350 students(K-8).

I, personally, love the smaller classrooms and caring environment. EVERY teacher knows EVERY student in our school which is such a plus. I always felt that my child was nurtured in school and I like that the values and morals that are important to me are central to the school's teachings. I do see a difference with the public school in that regards. Our school truly has become an extension of our family and I love that.

One difference I notice with my friends that have children in public school is that in public schools there is so much emphasis on standardized tests and teaching the principles that apply to the test. My son does take the IOWA test each year and the Cogats every other year but there is not pressure around the tests. Private schools are NOT a slave to the tests and if our teachers wanted to spend a few extra days on say, the American Revolution or dividing fractions, they could do that as long as the curriculum gets completed.

I know that this is not an easy decision especially in these economic times and your child will more than likely love school no matter where she ends up. She will make friends and learn and have fun. Good luck!



answers from Pittsburgh on

Both of my children attend a Catholic School. One is in 3rd and the other just graduated from 8th grade.
As for academics, they definately received a better education than they would have in a public school. And the classrooms are smaller, everyone knows everyone. As for technical advances, we have everything the public schools lab, smartboards, ect. We also have cross country, volleyball, basketball, track, cheerleading, football, newspaper, rosary workshop, pjas, band, forensics, ect... Also when the time comes your child will be able to play in the metro league at the local elementary school and sports for your municipality. Your local school district will provide you with additional services during the school day (if needed). Our school has a speech therapist, and AIU comes to provide additional math and reading services. You should definately call your school and ask them all of these questions. Good luck with your decision!


answers from Washington DC on

First and foremost - you need to find out about the teachers in the Catholic school. Do they have Masters Degrees? In what subjects? The teachers in public schools all have Masters Degrees in Curriculum and Instruction or their main subject area.
Does the Catholic school have a music program? When do they start instruments? Do they have a band or strings program? How do they teach math and reading? Do they focus on the basics like addition and subtraction and phonics or do they do something weird?
Do they have a SPED department?
All these are questions that you need to answer...
The other thing you need to remember is that you are paying taxes that fund your public school. When you send your kid to private school, you are, in effect, paying twice...
I sent my children to public school. I would do it again. You can get a decent education out of any public school in the nation. You need to be an involved parent. You can't just send them and expect them to learn it all in 6 hours a day. You need to supplement at home. You need to expect nothing but their best. You need to back up the teachers if there is an issue at school -- even if you don't agree. The children need to know that whatever the teacher says or does is what goes in the classroom. You can absolutely disagree with the teacher but not around your student. You can say things like, I'll speak with Mrs. X and then we'll discuss it with Daddy.
As far as the "indoctrination" issues - there are bad apples in every bucket. I taught at a private school. (I would never send my kids there!) The students were often rude, used really bad language, felt like they were entitled, and were not kids I enjoyed taking on field trips. They couldn't be trusted.
That said, I have kids in the public high school band - there are 45 of them in all. I would and do travel with them. They are a great bunch of kids -- some are ADHD, some have other issues, but they are not behavior issues at all. They don't throw things, they aren't rude, they don't use bad language, they don't throw things down toilets or block sinks and keep the water running... these kids are great! I cannot say that about the private school kids I was dealing with.

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions