Public vs Private Schools - Detroit,MI

Updated on April 01, 2010
B.H. asks from Detroit, MI
12 answers

I'm facing a decision on if I want to send my 3 year old to a public or private pre-school. Is there a real difference between the two except for the fact you you have to pay for private.
I have been to a few open houses for private pre-schools and the class sizes seemed as large as what you might find in a public school. I thought that with private school the classes were smaller? Also, with public pre-school the only option available is Headstart which is free but with income restrictions and the child must have certain risk factors. However, they will admit children outside of the qualifiing income if slots continue to be avilable. The school I would like my son to attend only has 16 spaces available! At this point I don't think he will qualify.
Has anyone had experience with both and can tell me there experience?

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So What Happened?

thanks for your responses. Public school would be nice for the fact that we have been paying for daycare for so long. I just found out today that open enrollment for Headstart starts April 16th at a pulic school that I hear is great. My husband actually attended the same elementary school. So, Will attend the "round up" and see if we get selected. The class size is actually smaller than one the private schools we were considering.
The only down side to public/headstart in our district is that the kids don't go on Friday's. And because we work full-time we would still have to find a school with a latch key program.

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answers from Augusta on

We went with a private day care for my daughter's Prek class. Went public with my son's. The public school experience has been much better. The teacher is much better and so much more suited for being a pre-k teacher.
Here pre-k is lottery based. We got lucky enough to get picked this year for the class. There are two teachers in each class of 20. I don't know the rules for MI so I can't say how the classes are chosen there.

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answers from Chicago on

It totally depends on the school. I don't know what neighborhood you live in or what the public schools there are like, but here are some things to consider:

1) Is quality of education, class size, etc. your only consideration? That is, you aren't considering sending your kid to private school for religious reasons or something like that?

2)Other moms in the area are your BEST resource. Ask for the number of the moms on the PTO/ parents' group at both your local public school AND any private schools you're considering. Ask them frankly what they and their children like about the schools and what they DON'T like or would like to see changed. But- be aware that in my experience a lot of private school parents REALLY want you to join up and are a little more 'cheerleader' than public school parents.

Remember that you don't have to become best friends with other parents at your kid's school- but realistically, you will be interacting and fund-raising and room mothering with these other parents for several years to come. Do you get a friendly vibe from them? Do they and/or their kids seem nice to you? Can you see yourself chatting with them about school, waiting for the kids, getting coffee, etc? All this stuff WILL come up in the future, so just think about it!

3)Call the schools you are considering and ask for a tour. Meet with the principal and, if possible, the pre-school or kindergarten teachers (their schedules may be busy though) Try to get a 'feel' for each place- is this an environment where you can picture your child busy and learning and making friends? What does the social atmosphere seem to be? What is each school's philosophy?

4) Ask to see the school's test scores and reading and math averages. Usually they start testing at third grade, but look at scores all the way through middle school if possible. See if they remain consistent throughout the grades- remember, your child may potentially be here for several years, not just kindergarten. Another good resource for comparing schools and seeing if people have commented on them is - a website that many schools post test scores on and parents comment on. Check out the schools you're looking at there.

5)Convenience. Where is each school located? What is their schedule and how does it fit with your own. Again, remember, if this school works for your child, you will not just be picking up a little one- someday in just a few years he may be walking to school or riding his bike with friends. What do you think of the area the schools are in and how close are they to you? If you go back to work in a year or so, will the school still work for your schedule- these are just things to keep in mind.

My son attended a private daycare- very small and personalized- but has always gone to public school. In kindergarten through 1st grade, he was at a very diverse school which exposed him to lots of kids from different ethnic and financial backgrounds. He had a GREAT experience there, because of the excellent teachers and administration, even though the school itself had financial and social challenges.

We bought a house when he was going into 2nd grade in a different school district that has an award-winning public elementary school. Although it is a public school, the largest class he has ever had has been 20 kids- last year in third grade, his class had 15 kids in it- and you can't beat that!

Again, it is the quality of the teaching and the fact that it is a smaller school that seems to make a difference. My son is in 4th grade now and reading at a high high-school level and in the gifted program for both English and mathematics. We have a school organic community garden, art, gym, etc.

The cost of private school is prohibitive for us anyway, but even my fiance, who went to private schools his entire life, (Montessori and a prestigious Catholic Prep academy,) says that he would absolutely not want to send his kids to private school and that he really thinks public school- if the quality of education is good- is a much broader and better experience for kids.

As for the myth that kids at private school are somehow better socially or a better 'influence' etc. Frankly, that is bull. There are some bad apples in every barrel- plenty of people with the money to send kids to private school have kids who get into trouble or have bad habits,etc. You need good involved parents, and good teachers.

Make the best choice for you, but do your research! Good luck and have fun as a school age mom!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Charlotte on

In NC we have headstart and a program called more at 4 which are income based. We didn't qualify for either and had to pay for private pre-school. I would have preferred for them to go to public because it is free. We are a 1 income family of 6, so even though we make too much to qualify, we don't have a lot of money and it's a strain to pay for pre-school, especially with twins (twice the tuition).

Most private pre-schools are Christian based, which may pose a problem if you're not Christian. Other than that, they follow similar curriculums, have similar ratios and have to meet the same standards. Good luck finding a school!



answers from Grand Rapids on

My son went to the local public school through the Michigan GSRP program. My nieces and nephews went to a local private prek. They all learned the same thing and were all ready for kindergarten. Class size was the same, with 16 kids. I loved our prek. They had field trips, class parties, end of the year graduation, etc. just like everyone else. I would double check on the Headstart. I know my school district offers both income based (free) and tuition based prek. They have the same lesson plans.



answers from San Francisco on

It all depends on the school and the area you live in.



answers from Detroit on

There are a lot of public preschools, more than headstart. When my daughter went at the age 4 she was in afternoons 3 days a week, and her class only had 7 kids, which i though was great more 1 on 1 time with the teacher, plus most moms would like mornings so find a preschool that has afternoons. A lot of preschools are set up in churches but have no affiliation with the church. Good luck



answers from Detroit on

I sent my son to private pre-school for two years and private Kindergarten. When he finally reached the public school, he struggled like crazy to get the hang of all of the rules and expectations of the public schools. Please consider that in making your choice!

Good luck.



answers from Detroit on

Have you ever looked into a Montessori school? My daughters are in the Preschool & Toddler programs at one and we LOVE it. Our oldest will start Kindergarten there in the Fall and at this time, we plan to continue her Elementary education there. The learning style is not that of a traditional school, but we think that is a plus. At 4, our daughter is reading and learning sentence building skills in Language. She is doing addition & multiplication. She is learning about Science & Geography. The children are allowed to choose their own work rather than being "forced" to sit in one spot for hours being talked to or waiting for others to finish a lesson. We just love it.

I have personally attended both public & private schools & was really pushing for private with our children until we found the Montessori.

Good Luck!! These are difficult choices!!


answers from Dallas on

I believe it depends on the child. Public school was great for my oldest child. My second born needed a small classroom and more attentive teachers. I had always been an avid public school fan but found myself searching a private school that best met the needs of my child.

I would start your 5 year old in public if you aren't sure and see if the public school in your area is a good fit. If not, then you will better understand his needs and know what to look for.



answers from Saginaw on

I feel that my children get the best of both worlds with their charter school. A charter school is funded through both public education funds, and grants. They have to reach the same educational goals as both private and public schools, but are allowed to experiement with their curriculum, timeline and materials in order to reach those goals. Class sizes are smaller and much more one on one attention is given. I can personally e-mail the teacher, counselor, principal or superintendent for that matter, and get a response almost immediately. Any concern I may have is addressed promptly. My son and daughter are both far ahead in their learning from other children they interact with in their own age group, that attend both the local public and private schools.
To sum it kids get a private school education at a public school price (free)!!!



answers from Detroit on

Hi B.
I know you already put your "so what Happened" but I had to respond to tell you to do everything you can to get your child into head start. It is definitely the best start your child could get.
I had my eldest son in a private pre school and now my youngest in a start pstart program in Southfield. I thought the private pre-school was great but then I got to experience Head Start. The difference is day and night. The class sizes were smaller, the curriculum was so much closer to that of our local kindergartens, and so was the structure. The focus is not just on the educational aspects of pre-school but also on teaching life skills and on their health and emotional welfare. The one in Southfield is awesome! I cannot speak highly enough of Head Start. They mandate everything from the curriculum offered, to the healthy food they serve, to the services and opportunities they offer the child and family in order for your child to reach their potential.
Good luck, I really hope your child gets in, you won't regret it!
I also want to add that if your child doesn't get in this year, try again next year because they will be higher up the priority list because they will be four.

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