Public or Private?

Updated on March 13, 2009
J.C. asks from Norwalk, CT
13 answers

Hi Moms, It is time to decide which elementary school my son should be going to in September. In my town, we have several magnet schools which we did apply to (lottery), we have a public school which we have toured, and we do have a private, catholic school in our town which we haven't yet toured, but plan to soon.

My question is....public or private? Please provide me the pro's and con's of each, especially if your child has gone to both. Perhaps you moved him/her from one to the other. I appreciate everyone's input. Thank you in advance!!!!

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answers from New York on

I haven't sent kids to school yet but I am a teacher and I will not send my kids to private school. Private schools pay teachers much less so, in my opinion, you get better teachers in public schools. Unless you live in an area where the public school is really bad, I would stick with public. Besides, you are already paying for public schools!

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answers from New York on

Hi J.,

I guess it depends on your public school system. Although having had one daughter graduate 8th grade last year after attending K-8 in a Catholic school and going on to attend a Catholic HIgh School (This is the most amazing high school I cannot begin to say enough positive things about Sacred Heart Academy) and two children one in Pre-K and another in 2nd grade I would have a hard time sending them to public school even if it was a stellar system. Most Catholic schools have smaller class -size, they do not have to teach the kids how to pass the No CHild Left Behind Test, and it becomes more like a family. Every child in last year's graduating class was capable of speaking in public without hesitation as they all did so multiple times every year.

Last night I attended a function at my daughter's high school for which we had an extra ticket. I left the ticket at the door for the next person who had to purchase one. The girl who was given the ticket sought me out in the crowd to thank me. She did not have to - I would have never known who received it. In a world where so many people think only of themselves it is refreshing to see so many children who are not "the typical teen or preteen".

My 2nd grader is reading at least a 6th grade level and she is not the only one in her class. She is not thought of as a nerd and others in her class are trying to catch up to her.

There are times in which I wish they had some of the extras that are available at public school which are not as accessible in a public school like larger music program or certain sports,or however it is more important that my children learn to be confident, mature, responsible adults and receive a quality education at the same time.

We have had parents leave to attend the local public school only to return the year after or even during the same school year because the curriculum at the public school lagged behind the private school.

Check for accrediation of the parochial schools you are interested. The New England Association of Schools and Colleges does extensive reviews of parochial and private schools in are area.

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answers from Albany on

I have been a teacher in both private and public, and my daughter was in a private preschool and my kids are now in the public schools.

Regardless of where you go be it public private or homeschooling the curriculum is determined by NYS education dept. What you need to do is determine if your public schools are worthy of your children. There is a reason why some districts have magnet schools...because their elementary schools are not up to par and not meeting the NYS standards at an appropriate level...sort of like charter schools but not as controversial. So after examining your school on the State Ed website, go in and observe and talk to parents.

Then do the same with your private schools. Beware that religios based schools recieve very little federal funds, if any, and therefore have fewer resources. Non-religious schools tend to have higher tuitions, but are often just as good as a good public school.

The most important thing is not the curriculum - since that is the same, it is how that curriculum is executed. Teachers need to be good to teach effectively.

The second most important thing regardless of your choice is you! If you are involved, your children will succeed. If you provide a learning environment in your home your children will succeed. If you care your children will care. HTH!

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answers from New York on

I know I am probably going to be in the minority when I say public, but it has been my experience that you get out of school exactly what you put into it. If your child is bright and eager to learn he will get a good education no matter where he goes and conversely if he hates school or has trouble he wont learn any more in a private school. In fact private schools usually have less services for learning problems.
Private schools tend to be snooty and kids compete over who has what better than the other. Personally I would never send my child to a private school. I wanted my kids to experience the complete spectrum of their community since that is what they would have to deal with as adults. This is the same reason I dont like home schooling. Kids need to learn how to get along with rich & poor and all ethnicities. If they are exposed to different personalities at a young age they will learn how the real world works early on.

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answers from New York on

You really have to do your research, because each school is different and each state is different. Look up the school profiles and report cards. You might even want to list the pros and cons for each school you visit, so you can see if the school has what is important to you. (Make sure they teach phonics instead of whole word.) All schools have to meet the state's minimum requirements no matter what. Private schools have the option of having a more rigorous ciriculum and can expect more from their students, since they do not have to keep them. Public schools have to open their doors to all students, whether they are disruptive or not. As far as teachers' pay goes, it doesn't matter. I've seen teachers that get a really good salary and are lousey teachers. What matters is that the teacher wants to teach, enjoys teaching, and cares if the students understand the concepts being taught or not.
I went to a public school, but I decided to send my son to a private school. It happens to be a catholic school, since the only private schools here are religous. Turns out it's not so bad and is actually helpful. They've taught my son good values, morals, and even have him offering to do chores! I didn't like my public education, because I was bullied to the extreme and I discovered the good education I thought I had was nothing more than a slice of swiss cheese. (I was missing chemistry and etimology.)The music part was fantastic. I sent my son to catholic school, because he missed the cut-off for public school and was more than ready to go. My son's school is 1 grade level above the public school, starts teaching Spanish in 1st grade, and is 200 points higher on the SAT than our public school.

Pros and Cons.............................
Public school - Pros: Has more extra curricular activities, (Depending on the state, private school and home school kids have to be accepted in public school extra curricular activities if they want to be in them.)has IEP if your child needs it, it's free, has transportation, more diverse, maybe no uniforms, (Some public schools are starting to require uniforms, due to gang problems.) neighbors' kids probably go there, may or may not have a "good" gifted program, all teacher should be certified. (Horrible discovery about out public school is that some of the teachers aren't certified and some are on "emergency certification." It shouldn't happen, since there are 500 applications per position.)
Cons: Depending on where you live they may be behind in their curiculum, the curiculum/teaching method is usually what ever trendy method is in at the time, school officials and teachers have to be very careful about how they discipline students, less homework, (Can be possitive depending on how you look at it.) every student may not have a textbook due to a large student population, all students are kept including the "trouble makers/bullies," school cannot teach values/manners, not allowed to pray if the student wants to.

Private: Smaller, (Everybody gets to know everybody.) usually ahead of the public school, geared toward college prep, can start students early by giving them a readiness test, students can skip grades, better discipline, nobody gets past the office without anyone knowing, teaches values and manners, uniforms, (Initial cost can be high, but afterwards everyone just exchanges clothes.) every student has a textbook, don't have to worry about body piercing and tattoos, no lude clothing, catholic school teaches latin which is helpful with the SAT verbal section, better parent/teacher raport, more academic oriented, more homework, the teacher corrects the homework and not the students.
Cons: Not a lot of extra curricular activities, usually have a poor IEP program....Guess I need help here, because I can't think of anything else.

**Note to parents of "problem" children: Please do not send your child to private/catholic school in hopes that they will calm your child down. It's too distracting to the other children, and you might wind up being told you have to take them back out of that school anyway. Private/catholic schools are not boot camp. Thank you.

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answers from Rochester on


Neither. Have you looked into Waldorf education? You will not look back, I think, once you check it out.

Good Luck,

PS: you can google Waldorf education.



answers from Utica on

HI J.,
Congrats on your lovely family.
Your question gives me hope that our eldest may just find a mate. Thanks for that.
I have been through this one from all angles.
Our boys went to public school til a private school opened locally. They were in 1st and 5th grade then. They learned more in those years than I thought possible. They also learned how to study and the excitement of study which without a doubt our eldest had lost that edge completely. The classes in public school were geared by necessity to the disruptive and the low end of the class because "the smart kids will do ok anyway".
Before they entered the Christian school they were tested for grade level. Our younger son was a mystery for them. They were supposed to conduct the test til they got 3 wrong in the section and that would be their grade level. No wonder he,our first grader, was bored and disruptive in public school he tested into the 5th grade before he got any wrong. At that point they decided to start him at 6yo in 5th grade and see what happened at the advice of their supplier. OK so he's smart, he went through material finishing 7th grade work that year. It was fun for him. It is expensive, a major hurdle. Our other son fair exceptionally well. When they started talking about college and I checked into that at that time, I could see that we needed a public school background for them to go. Not true today!!! They went back to Public school in 10th and 7th grade age wise. They played sports etc. It was OK because their foundation in God & things righteous was strong. Our younger son graduated from pubic High school at 15(he never had to go to class, teachers signed him out to go to library=== he went on test day and read the books) and went to private prep school before going to college. He claims today that was the best choice for him. When the boys were 17 and 13 I found out I was pg with the twins. It was a rocky road but another story for another day. When they turned 4 we moved. Public school started their life as well. Not good!! Although the facility looked great, times had changed and they were not excellent a decade earlier. Wish I had put them in Christian school for K, but there were other situations. Anyway, first grade we did. Small classes good, did not put up with disruption --- obedience was expected. They learned and grew, but we moved again. Tried public school but pulled them out after 9 weeks, I even tried substituting in the district to try to understand. I understood alright. I determined after 8 days of substituting in elementary grades that my children did not belong there. There are horror stories from those days. I will tell you some if you write but for me it was enough to pull them out without knowing what I was actually going to do. It was then that I found out about homeschooling. Checked into it, found I was already homeschooling them and sending them to school. I was spending 3-4 hours with them on homework, reading, writing, math assignments and crafts and such that I enjoyed doing with them. Abiding by the laws in NY I homeschooled them through high school. Today they are both in college. Homeschooling is much cheaper than private school. As a homeschooling parent you have to take advantage of opportunities in the community. They took art lessons at the museum, later one taught classes there. A major factor in getting into the college art program. They took private music lessons. One plays piano at church for the services. Both were in 4H which has an especially good public speaking project locally. They are thrilled now with that because one is taking speech and one theater. They see some of the kids as petrified to get up in front. One took an enrichment course for adults when she was 13 and put the adults to shame. Both took classes at the community college as juniors & seniors in High School. They took a chance on them is what they said, later I found they have to accept them if they are 16. 4.0 ing all of those classes. They are not near as smart as our older children, they know how to study.
Often it is said that you pull them out of society and they can't cope, but when you are planting a garden you protect those plants from the elements so that they can let the roots grow down deep into the soil, so they can withstand the elements. That is the way I look at homeschooling especially.
I know I wrote a book -- sorry, but if you want different questions answered instead of our experience, just write.
God bless you as you make a decision as to what is best for you and your family.
K. --- SAHM married 38 years --- adult children 37, coach; 33, lawyer, married with son 7 mo; and twins 18, in college: one is a fine arts major with a 3.7 GPA, which names her to the Dean's List; the other is a journalism major with a 3.8 GPA, which names her to the President's List. She was named editor-in-chief of their school newspaper. They both work their work study hours, and both won scholarships for their volunteerism, which means they volunteer on campus which pays some expenses.
Home school children learn how to study, they learn their work so they don't forget. Grades are inflated because you don't have to keep pace with a classroom, you simply learn the work and until they do they don't go on. Some do well on SAT's some don't. The girls did ok. When excepted at college most fair very well. One of my girls commutes, and one lives on campus 3 hours away.


answers from New York on

Hi J.,
I have two daughters, they are K and 5th grade now; they are both in public school. Until this summer we were living in Queens, NY and now we are in Elmwood Park, NJ. I can see the big difference between the curriculums here and there, but I can't say that one is better than the other; I'm very satisfied with both. Once before I also was thinking what to do, like you are thinking now, but after all the experiences of my friends with kids in catholic schools... I choose public school. If you are in some decent area and have time to work with your child at home and be involved, than it should be enough for great results to follow.
Good luck,



answers from New York on

depends on the public school your child has to go to? its reputation, scores etc?
i am facing the same dilemma although i don't seem to have the options of private schools in town (we're in brookhaven). my children start kindergarten this september. so i have registered them in public school and i will give them a chance. if not i will need to find something else. good luck



answers from New York on

Hi J.,
I think it really depends upon how you feel about the curiculum and the teachers and what works best for your child. My neighbors took their kids out of parochial school and were so happy with their decision. But with lots of public schools laying off teachers, the parochial schools now have some very qualified teachers as well, plus there are lots of cuts to public schools. My friend has his son in an Independent school and they love it, he feels it is a well rounded curiculm, not based upon NCLB testing.
Good Luck!



answers from Buffalo on

Wow. That is a tough one. We struggled with that choice also. I agree with one of the other responses that you get out what you put in. There is more to it than that though. Check out what curriculum each school is using. In our district the public schools use a widely used math program they think is great, but many other districts are getting rid of because it has proven to be awful. Asking questions about that type of thing then researching it was very important for us. (Just because somebody in the district made a choice about something, that doesn't automatically make it a GOOD choice). There is also the discipline issue. Public schools have to keep all of the ones who should be separated (unless your district has another school for them) and trust me, there are plenty of kids with behavior problems even at your sons young age.
I could go on and on with the reasons we have opted out of public schools, but the bottom line is the public schools near you may be fantastic & the private ones garbage, or the other way around. Your opinion of the school could vary greatly from your neighbors - it all depends on what you want, need & expect them to provide for your child & you. We originally sent our oldest to public (we pay the taxes to support it and private was so expensive). Then after 2 years, had had enough and are now homeschooling. Never pictured myself doing it and was terrified in the beginning, but now think it is the best choice I ever made. Don't rule that out as an option, too.
Good luck, and remember 2 things: (1) just because you make a decision for the upcoming school year, doesn't mean you are stuck there. You can move him during the year or at the end of the year; and (2) just because all of the other mommies in the neighborhood are saying "ABC school is the best one ever!" doesn't make it true for your family. Follow your gut even if the other mommies aren't in agreement. All the best to your family!!



answers from New York on

I J., my oldest son is ready to graduate from Montgomery twp public school system he is a senior this year, he has attended since kindergarten and it has been a well rounded education and a good system for us. My experience is that if you live in a good twp where most of the kids attend public school then try it because I think some public schools do a great job and kids want to be with friends. Take advantage of the taxes you pay into the system and save up for the high price of college tution and other enrichments and sports etc... because it gets very expensive. I myself never had the experience of attending public school as a child I attended only elite private and catholic schools even on the college level. I always wanted to attend public schools and felt diffrent because of this. I did not want my kids to have the same experience.
If you feel you can teach good values at home and confident that you will take an active role in your child's education I then believe your child will do well anywhere. Schools all follow state mandatory regualtions and testings to assure your child is meeting the grade, most outperform on the national level in NJ. All in all NJ has one of the best public school it is a matter of personal choice. Try public school for a few years and see how it goes. Some families transfer out of public school systems in the middle school and high school years to prep better for higher education also a case in point to consider. Good luck!! It is an exciting time, keep in mind some years will be better than others as teachers change from year to year, expect to keep a good eye out for your child while they attend school and your child will be successful. Never hurts to try public then go private is my advice.



answers from Rochester on

J. ~ You will need to decide what is best for you and for your son <and dd when that time comes>. No matter the decision you will need to stay ontop of the situation<s> at school, what they are teaching, how they are teaching etc.
My older children unfortunately attended only public schools. I was a young mother that expected the school to provide for the children – THEY DIDN’T!! Two of our older children both “GED’D” out of school by the age of 16 due to boredom!! <skip to our youngest> who started reading at 3 and writing words by 4 yrs of age – we put her in a catholic school <she had to be interviewed twice before being ‘allowed’ to start early, but the public school wouldn’t even talk to us, but to say wait two more years!> she did learn a lot of good value sets and I saw all that I needed to know that what she needed she was NOT going to find there either. We have since home schooled her and kept her ‘on the move’ to further her education. My point? YOU are your child <rens> best teacher. YOU taught them to walk, talk etc. You will need to make sure they get the best they can. My advise - Interview, Interview, Interview!! GO to the ‘open houses’ the open meetings, open sporting events <see how the children interact with others> the PSO/PTA meetings see what each choice has to offer and make the decision that is best for all of you. GOOD LUCK to all of you!!

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