Are private schools killing the public system? What will happen to public schools if parents keep taking their children to private institutions?


M. Erez Kats, Seattle Language Arts Teacher

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I don't know if private schools are killing the public school system, mainly because they seem to operate largely in an independent manner from public schools. They don't really attempt to advertise or take a more prevalent role than public schools in most (if not all) places I've ever lived. People seem to already know about private schools, and if they want their kids to attend those schools, they actively seek out admission on their own.

I believe that as long as you have low-income families and low-income people in any location, you will always have a need for public schools though. These families simply cannot afford to send their children to expensive private schools, as much as they'd like to. And scholarships are in high-demand and short-supply. The parents that choose to bring their kids to private schools are also typically familiar with the school and what it offers. They want a very specific experience for their kids, and a very qualified faculty that they can remain loyal to. I believe that parents know what they are going to get from a private school often times, whereas they feel like they are getting something from the grab bag or drop of a hat when it comes to public school teachers.

Charter schools further complicate things in that they are not exactly private schools, but are very similar to them in terms of the way that they are run, curriculum, and the overall student experience, etc. Parents may feel as though they have a much more privatized and personalized education for their child, and they feel more empowered or "in control" at this point.

But public school is something with so much history and tradition behind it, and so often is something that "just makes sense" to families when they move to a new city or neighborhood. It's a way to integrate a student into a school as well as an entire city. And they have the government $$ backing them for the most part, as well as the incentives and possibility for growth that often makes it such a popular choice, both on a district level, and in individual schools. For this reason, I don't believe there will ever be a complete takeover. Public schools will always have their niche, and I don't believe today's society is quite ready to do away with all of that just yet.

Amy McElroy, Law School Graduate, Writer, Editor, Parent of Child Interviewing for Colleges

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Having grown up in the public school system, with two public school teachers for parents, I do believe strongly in public schools and think every effort should be made to improve them for the benefit of all children.

But, for example, in California, private schools serve multiple functions. Private schools are putting pressure on the public schools to improve because of the reasons stated above--they do drain many successful, motivated students and involved parents. Private schools provide alternatives for families who have not found successful education for their children in the public schools. And, they are boosting the local economy, which then provides some tax revenue for public schools.

Overall, as the public schools improve, fewer families will choose the private route. But the solution is not to attack schools that are successful, but to figure out why.

Susan E. Coryat, Secondary Ed. English, M.Ed., Reading Specialist, and Parent!

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I struggle with this question from so may different angles. I recall being in college, studying to be a teacher, and being so adamant that private schools were a cop out! I was indignant in my thoughts that if you didn't like the job your public system was doing, then it was YOUR job to get INVOLVED. As a public school teacher and a parent of school age children myself, now at 20 years later, I see how naive my thought process was. It's just not that simple. What is the short answer? No, I don't think independent or parochial schools will ever wipe out public schools. The education system is taking a hit right now, and rightfully so; there are many problems with the system. But, the public education system is reliant on the public and the local, state, and federal administrations, and therefore, it is cyclical. There will always be growth and change in the system, so I have no fear that it will ever just crumble and go away. It's far too good for that. The certification process for teachers is solid and the foundation of the system is strong. It is a GOOD system, albeit with problems. I am a proponent for working on fixing the problems with the system and that is a totally different question and a much longer thread. In full disclosure: I currently have one of my sons in public school and my other son in an independent prep school. As a public school teacher, I absolutely struggled with this when we first considered it, but the truth is the public system wasn't working for one of my sons. It's that simple. It won't work for everyone all the time, but it does work incredibly well for most children almost all of the time and I'm proud to still be a part of it.

Dylan Ferniany, Ed.D. in Leadership, Policy, and Organizations

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Private schools don't compete directly with the public school system. For one, most families can't afford private school so it simply isn't an option. Charter schools do compete with the public system, because families can often choose them in lieu of their neighborhood school. We like to say in public schools that "dollars follow the student". So if a student chooses to leave a public school for another option, the funding goes with them. Public schools get much of their funding on a per pupil basis. Virtual schools and home schooling also have some level of competition with public school as families choose their own options. New Orleans is an interesting case study to look at because the traditional public school system in New Orleans has been replaced with charter schools. In this instance the traditional public schools were not able to survive the influx of charter schools that came in post-Katrina. Charter schools are public schools, as they are publicly funded, but they are more autonomous. Each state has different policies and laws surrounding charter schools. The best option is to have multiple options for families to choose from, and to strive for the highest quality of education in public and private education. There is a place for multiple models of schooling in the United States and parents should have equal access to a high quality education for their children.

Dr. Kristin M. Kosmerl, is a BCBA-D and PA LBS who specializes in autism and applied behavior analysis (ABA)

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I would say private schools have very little, if any impact on public education. However, that being said, vouchers paid by taxpayers (given by local school districts as required by law) would have an impact on the funds available for public school use.

Charter and cyber charter schools are more likely to impact public education, as the local education agency (LEA/ home school district) has to pay the charter school tuition for a child who chooses to go there.

For example Suzie lives in Whoville School District, but decides to go to Dr. Seuss charter school. Whoville School District now has to pay tuition to Dr. Seuss for Suzie.

Charter schools use taxpayer money, which is then not available for public school students within the home district.

Dr. Aaron Smith, Ph.D. in Educational Leadership, Currently Program Director at Aviation Academy, Co-Author of Awakening Your STEM School

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I just can't see this happening. For most families, they can not afford tuition from a private school as the primary reason. Even if tuition was affordable, then it would boil down to particulars. Both private and public schools have their advantages and disadvantages but putting that aside, the research I have seen shows no academic differences between the two settings.

Amy Yvette Garrou, College admissions expert (US and international colleges)

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Interesting article about the US Constitution and public education:

"A real solution, as international precedent and common sense suggest, is to finally promote education as a national value through a constitutional amendment," says the author, Stephen Lurie, in October 2013.

I think private schools will be around as long as we have a free-market system in this country. I also think this is not ideal, and that private schools drain away from public schools many of the most involved parents. But short of a drastically different system of government, private schools will always exist.

As to how prevalent private schools will be, it's hard to say. There are enough high-income suburbs and other districts in this country to ensure that some public schools will be well-funded. It's a question of money and national priorities. As a former college admission officer, I can say that about 25 - 30% of students attending the selective college where I worked came from private high schools. Two-thirds or more came from public schools. Working on the other side of the desk more recently, as a college counselor (at private schools), I would still estimate this is true.

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