Charter School Vs. Public School Vs. Private School

Updated on January 27, 2011
M.J. asks from Saint Paul, MN
8 answers

What is the difference between a Charter school, a public school and a private school? What exactly is a charter school? I have been told to "watch out" for charter schools - why?? Any opinions?

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

So What Happened?

Thanks for the wonderful information! We have decided to stick with a private school for now and see how it goes.

More Answers



answers from San Francisco on

A charter school is a school that is publicly funded but allowed to follow their own plan to educate their students. This plan does have to be approved through the school district that they receive their funding from but they are not required to follow that textbook adoptions that the district may make. Often they follow their own philosophy of teaching.

A public school is funding by our tax dollars. It is directly held accountable to state standards and country laws for improvement.

A private school is funded by the parents who have their children attend there and or by fundraising. These schools can be anything they want to be from religious to crazily expensive to helping specific children or training.

I don't think that you need to 'watch out' for charter schools in particular. But I think you do need to visit several different schools in your area to understand what is best for your child in your area. For instance, in my area the public schools are not great (I know that because I actually taught there; my opinion is not from some state rating) so my children attend private school. However, if we lived closer to where my parents live, I probably would not have a problem sending them to a public school because they are doing a better job then the ones near me.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I had a great experience with a charter school.



answers from Atlanta on

Charter schools are public schools that operate with a specific charter behind them -meaning they may institute rules or policies not in affect at other public schools in that district. They usually have some special tie-in to their learning like technology or the arts. I don't know why anyone would tell you to watch out for them. In my opinion (although I'm in a different state), charter schools are basically run like all schools used to be -they hold students accountable and make parents be involved. It depends on the charter of the school as to how much parental involvement is required. If a student doesn't do her/his work or is a behavior problem, they are kicked out to go to the regular public school in the area. Some do have issues due to administration problems or conflicts with district authorities, but most seem to do a great job and function a bit better than a lot of regular public schools.

Private schools charge tuition to attend. Because of that, they can institute any rules they see fit regarding grades, discipline, attendance, etc. Some private schools are religion or church-based and will incorporate aspects of that religion in their curriculum and/or daily routine. Often private schools offer a far better education because you don't have classes full of discipline problems, parents who don't care and aren't involved and they can use their own curriculum at a faster pace. That's not always the case though, and there are some private schools that are pretty awful and much worse than the public schools in their area.


answers from Dover on

Private school typically requires tuition and can be quite expensive. It does not always mean a better education although it can.

Public school are those that you do not pay to attend. You go to the school based on where you live. Some are good, others not so much. Some areas (like DE) allow you to "school choice" to another district if you want to attend a school that is not within your district.

Charter school are typically a public school but not the main-stream one. Class sizes tend to be smaller (which is great) but they can close unexpectedly due to financial backing and they don't have as wide a variety of extra curriculars that the regular public schools do (just due to size). Some are elementary only, some go through high school.



answers from San Francisco on

In our district we have several charter schools and now magnet schools (and I don't totally understand what the difference in those is).
Charter schools are free from some of the regulations of traditional schools (varies by location and the nature of the school), but follow the basic curriculum requirements of the state. They have more choice over where they will spend the money from the state than regular district schools.
One charter school uses Waldorf methods instead of traditional academics.
One is an Edison school which uses their own curriculum.
One is a bilingual immersion school (Spanish only for portions of the day).
One is a middle school that is focused on the arts and project based learning.
At the magnet schools they specialize in a particular area, such as "Math, ARt and Science", or International Baccalaureate program, visual and performing arts, or environmental science.
Public (including charter and magnet schools) and private schools differ by how they are funded (the state vs. tuition - both usually supplement funding by grants and fundraising). Private schools are also not required to take any individual student, while public schools must take every student. Public schools are regulated by state laws, and private schools are to some extent, but many private schools also become accredited.



answers from Phoenix on

All I know is just because it is a charter school doesn't mean its good or bad. And not all public schools are bad and not all private schools are good. All schools are different and you must research (by visiting and talking to others) about each one you are interested in to see which one best fits your children. My kids go to an excellent public school and I could not imagine going anywhere else.



answers from Sacramento on

There really aren't any characteristics that are unique to each category accept for how they are funded and run. The quality and/or type of instruction varies greatly within each category.

Charter Schools ARE Public Schools. The difference is that Charters are privately operated. They may or may no use the district adopted curriculum. They make their own rules for their operations (like private schools) but they are publicly funded. They get money for each student from the same pot as public schools. No child is "zoned" for a Charter school though. Each has their own selection criteria.

Private Schools are privately funded. Individuals pay per child that attends. They make their own rules about operations. Some hire credentialed teachers, some don't. Some are religious, some aren't. Some wear uniforms, some don't. etc.



answers from Minneapolis on

You have already gotten really good explanations on the differences. I have had experience with all three of these between 6 kids and overall here has been my personal experience.

#1 choice was always private school

#2 choice was charter school (providing that they were a good one)

#3 public school

Not knocking public school or anything, but for us, private school usually meant better surroundings, books, activities, etc. Charter school usually meant small classroom sizes, which is great, and public schools often had neither of these perks.

Good luck!

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions