The Advantages of Public versus Private Education in the United StatesEach year, millions of students receive education in variousschools across the United States. Ineach state, various types of educational programs along with a myriad ofschools with a variety of offerings are presented to families. Many of these schools are convenientlylocated with the increased openings of vocational and charter schools.
Private schools are another option thatfamilies may consider. Most families,however, choose to send their children to public schools to receive theireducation. Many debates have occurred todefend or to refute the effectiveness of public education when compared toprivate schools. Choosing to attendpublic or private schools is accompanied by advantages and disadvantages;however, public schools are the best option for receiving an all-around bettereducation as public schools are more convenient, they give students moreexposure to diversity, and they have better teacher quality and studentcurriculum.History of Public EducationFree, public education in the United States began inMassachusetts in 1647 when the local government decided that every town thathad at least 50 families had to have an elementary school (“HistoricalTimeline,” n.d.
). This proclamation cameafter many years of wealthy families providing education for their childrenwhereas families that were less affluent usually made their children work tohelp the family survive or thrive. Massachusettsalso went a bit further. They mandatedthat every town that had at least 100 families had to have a Latin school(“Historical Timeline,” n.d.). At thattime, many pieces of literature was written in Latin.
However, the primary reason for theirdecision to mandate free public education was not so much so that childrenwould not grow up to be illiterate (Singer, 2016). The local governmental officials’ prioritieswere geared to promoting religion; therefore, they wanted to be sure that eachchild would be able to read the Bible and could learn more about their religion(“Historical Timeline,” n.d.; Singer, 2016).
Some other, industrial northern states wanted to be sure that childrenwere prepared to work in factories (Goldfield et al, 2017).From that time, free public education gradually spreadthroughout the colonies. For example, in1790, the constitution for the state of Pennsylvania required free education(“Historical Timeline”, n.
d.). Thisprovision, however, was only for those families that were poor. Rich families were expected to pay for theeducation of their children, and these rich families did.
New York also followed suit not long afterPennsylvania. In 1805, rich businessmenformed the New York Public School Society with the goal of educating poorchildren. This goal was also accompaniedby an ulterior motive: the schools were geared to train students to bedisciplined and obedient, character traits that were deemed necessary for oneto work in a factory (“Historical Timeline,” n.
d.).By 1820, most states had laws requiring free and publiceducation (Goldfield et al, 2017). However, two groups were exempt from this requirement, the NativeAmericans and black Americans. At thistime, most black Americans were enslaved. Many slave-owners felt threatened whenever a black person was able toread and to write.
These slave-ownersbelieved being literate would lead to enslaved people wanting to and being ableto escape more easily. As a result, moststates in the south passed laws which forbade these enslaved people to learn toread and write. Those who taught slavesto read or write did so with great risk to their personal safety, and in someevents, their lives (“Historical Timeline,” n.d.
). It was not until 1865 that black Americanscame together to push for public education. This was following the Civil War, with which came the legal end toslavery. Indeed, it was during theReconstruction era that the Freedman’s Bureau opened 1,000 schools to serve90,000 former enslaved people and their children (Singer, 2016).
In 1954, Brown versus Board of Education, Topeka, Kansasbrought the end of legalized, segregated education (Goldfield et al, 2017). In this Supreme Court case, the justices unanimouslyruled that separate but equal schools had no place in the United States, andthat these schools were “inherently unequal” (Historical Timeline, n.d.
, p.6). Still this ruling from the SupremeCourt was not taken easily from the states. In 1957, the governor of Arkansas sent the state’s National Guard tophysically restrict nine black students from enrolling in an all-white school,Central High School. In reaction, thepresident, Dwight Eisenhower, sent federal troops to enforce the court order. However, President Eisenhower’s primary motivewas not due to his support of desegregation, but rather due to not wanting thestates to disobey federal orders (“Historical Timeline,” n.d.).
By 1870, every state had free, publicelementary schools, and children and adults in the United States boasted one ofthe highest literacy rates in the world (National Center, 1997).Early Teaching and Curriculum in Public SchoolsHistorically, public school teachers were primarilywomen. Even then, teaching for thesewomen was usually a temporary position as they were expected to soonmarry.
These teachers were not requiredto have any formal credentials, and they often had limited education themselves(Singer, 2016). The curriculum wasfocused on teaching children to be more observant of religion or to becomeprepared to work in factories and industries. These teacher often taught many grades in a one room school building.
Funding for Public SchoolsPublic education in the United States in financed with moneycollected from people who paying taxes. In 2014, around 50 million students were in enrolled in elementary andsecondary public schools at a cost of approximately 619 billion dollars accordingto the United States Department of Education (Changing demographics,2017). The specific source of thesefunds are from local, state, and federal taxes (Walker, 1999).
Defining Private SchoolsApproximately six million students are enrolled in privateschools across the United States (Walker, 1999). Oftentimes, private schools are deemedsuperior to public schools. This is dueto various reasons.
One is that privateschools innately feature school choice. Many believe that families are best equipped to decide which schoolwould most effectively suit and address their children’s’ needs. Another reason is that private schools areusually smaller than public schools. Some families find a smaller setting advantageous because their childwould not get lost in the crowd or fall in between the cracks. Finally, some families appreciate that thedecision-making of private schools is decentralized (Walker, 1999). They feel that they, as participants of theschool, share in the decision making. Walker(1999) states that “parents of students in public schools can sometimes chooseor exert influence over which schools their children attend” (p. 3).
This adds to the appeal of private schools. Private schools are funded by tuition costs,which families must pay. Some politicaland religious groups, however, are advocating for public funds be used in theform of vouchers to pay private school tuition (“The Religious Right,” 1999).
Advantages of Public SchoolsMany advantages exist for parents and their children whoattend public schools. These advantagesfar outweigh the uncertainty that accompanies attending a private school. Usually, a family is unsure of all that goesalong with private school attendance until a child from their family enrolls ina private school.
Financial Benefits Families of students who attendpublic schools can save upward of $20,000 for a four year high schooleducation. In addition to this, theright public school can provide a quality education while saving the familymoney (Walker, 1999). Although manyprivate school advocates propose using taxpayer money to fund private schools,proponents of public schools argue that these vouchers will only serve toundermine public schools. For instance,vouchers will take funding away from public schools, and student left attendingthose public schools will be faced with poor conditions (Public Funds, 1999). Theaverage cost for private schools in the United States is $10,841 for the schoolyear. The cost for boarding schools areeven higher: $23,448 per year (Chen, 2017).
Moreover, public schools usuallyhave access to more funding since these schools are publically funded. Consequently, public schools are able tooffer more options and extra-curricular activities. These options may include more AdvancedPlacement classes, gifted and talented programs, specialized subjects such astechnology, vocational courses, and so on. Extra-curricular activities such as sports, theater, and clubs are oftenoffered more so than their private schools’ counterpart. In addition, these extra-curricularactivities at public schools are at no cost to families.Convenience Public schools are available forevery child in the United States and each are located in a location near thatchild’s neighborhood.
Private schools,on the other hand, have locations that vary. Moreover, where families do not have to worry about payments for publicschools, often students in private schools participate in fundraising to helpoffset the cost of the tuition (Chen, 2017). Constant fundraising could become tedious and stressful. Inaddition, per state law, public schools cannot turn away any student in acommunity (Chen, 2017).
This helpsensure that every child has equal access to a quality education. This access is not dependent on financial orsocial status. Every student must beprovided services as required by law.
Basically, this mean that if a student has a learning disability or aphysical disability, that school must provide services so that each studenthas equal opportunity and access to a quality education. Althoughthe average class size is larger in public schools, having smaller class sizesin private schools come with a trade-off (National Center, 1997). Smaller class sizes are more expensive. As a result, if a school has smaller classsizes, that school will have to use more resources just attending to classsizes. For instance, the school wouldhave to hire more teachers. Hiringteachers cost money, and this practice may take away from resources that couldbe used for extra-curricular activities.
Toadd, more support services for families are given in public schools. These support services include, but are notlimited to, academic support (tutoring, English as a Second Language help, andgifted and talented programs) and health related services (medical services,drug and alcohol prevention, and free or reduced lunch prices) to assiststudents (National Center, 1997).Diversity Attending a public schoolincreases a student’s opportunity to experience diversity. They are more likely to be in classes withstudents from various cultures and backgrounds as opposed to private schooleducation.
In addition, students inpublic schools are more likely to be in classes with students with disabilitiesand to have teachers with diverse backgrounds (Chen, 2017). This serves to further student awareness and toincrease the diversity experience. In public schools, a variety of studentsfrom various demographics exist.
Thebackground characteristics can vary based on race, ethnicity, language,cultural, and families. Furthermore,this myriad of racial and cultural backgrounds help enrich the experiences ofstudents in ways that should not be underestimated (Walker, 1999). Onthe other hand, private schools can be selective with their admissionsprocess. Some may only choose studentswho are associated with a certain religion. This severely narrows diversity. Some have grade point average requirements; this serves to excludestudents who may have learning disabilities or students who may strugglemore. The tuition requirement serves toexclude those who may not fit in certain financial categories (Walker, 1999).
This is especially true if scholarships arenot offered. As a result, children fromthe lowest income families are more likely to attend a public school. Consequently, this also narrows the diversityof private schools.Teacher Quality By law, teachers of publicschool students must receive certain certifications in order to teacher certainsubjects. In addition to suchcertification, these teachers are also evaluated and must adhere to certain standardsto keep their licenses (Chen, 2017). Teachersin public schools are also held accountable for students’ education and forstudent results.
This accountability isusually measured by having students take standardized assessments. This is opposite of private schools whereteachers typically do not have to meet or have certain credentials created or mandatedby state governments. As a result,teacher qualification and quality seem to be more for public school teachersthan for private school teachers (Walker, 1999). For instance, in high schools, students in EnglishLanguage Arts, math, science, social studies, and foreign language classes aremore likely to be taught by teachers who majored in the subject as compared tostudents taking those classes in private schools. In addition, public school teachers are morelikely to have an advanced degree such as a Master’s when compared to theirprivate school counterparts (Walker, 1999). Publicschool teachers are also more likely to participate in professional development. Professional development is vital to maintainand to update teacher skills. Thisprofessional development includes training on the use of technology forinstruction, instructional techniques, in-depth studies, student testing andassessments, and cooperative learning in classroom environments (Walker, 1999).
Teachers in public schools are also paid higher salariesthan those teaching in private schools. On average, the salaries on public school teachers are about twelve tofifteen thousand more per year. Teachersworking in public schools also usually have access to better health care, lifeinsurance, and pension contributions (Walker, 1999). Higher salaries and benefits, in turn,usually attract teachers of a higher quality. These teachers also usually stay in the profession longer when comparedto private school teachers.
Finally,another consideration with teacher value ties in with diversity. Private schools generally have fewer minorityteachers and administrators. Studiesshow that having access to minority teachers and school leaders adds to thevalue of education. This is especiallytrue for minority students (Walker, 1999).Curriculum Studentsat public schools have access to curriculum that is research-based and thathave specific, measurable standards and objectives (Common Core, 2017).
The current objectives are based on theCommon Core curriculum. Common Core are educational standards that state whatstudents in public schools should know and should be able to do in EnglishLanguage Arts (ELA) and math. Scienceand social studies standards build on the ELA and math standards and applythose standards to the science and math academic areas. However, state standards for public schoolsbegan in the United States in the 1990s with previous president, George W. Bush(Common Core, 2017), so they are not new. On the other hand, private schools are not subjected to state standardsor goals. Private schools are free andopen to create, or not create, their own standards. This could lead to some students not havingto reach certain criteria or some students being at risk of being left behindwithout any consequence to the school.
Itcan also lead to a lack of motivation for that private school to create and toadhere to academic standards for students. Studiesalso indicate that teachers in public schools spend more time teacher academicsubjects such as ELA, math, science, and social studies. The National Center for Education (1997)states that “public elementary school teachers spent an average of about 22hours per week teaching the four core subjects, and private school teachersspent about 3 hours less” (p. 23). Thisalso takes into consideration that public and private school students spendabout the same amount of time in school. Teachersof public schools and private schools use teaching strategies and methods thatare very similar (National Center, 1997).
This leads one to pose the question, “Why pay to go to a private schoolwhen the teaching methods are going to be the same or superior in a publicschool?” It makes sense for a family tosave that tuition money and to enroll one’s child in a public school. Libraries in public schools are often moretechnologically advanced than those in private schools (National Center, 1997). This is most likely because public schoolshave access to more funding.Moreover, when completing standardized tests, students atpublic schools perform similarly to those students who attend privateschools. Sometimes, they even score betterthan students in private schools. However, this is only true with true comparisons, meaning similardemographics (Chen, 2017).DiscussionResearcher Robin Walker compared public and private schoolsin California, and found that students could achieve a quality education ateach. For instance, at Mater Dei HighSchool, a private Catholic school costing $5000 a year, 97% of the graduatingclass attended college.
Seventy percentof that percentages attended a four year university (Singer, 1999). Mater Dei High School was compared to LosAlamitos High School, a public schools whose education is very similar to theprivate school’s. The graduation rate is98.7% and 86% of these students go on to attend college. Of this 86%, about 52% attend four yearcolleges or universities and 34% attend two year colleges. The remaining 14% enroll in vocationaltraining, the military, or immediately join the job force (Singer, 1999).
Consequently, one can infer that publiceducation is not inferior to private schools as some tend to believe. Graduation requirements are a major indicatorof success and preparation for post-secondary colleges and universities. If the school’s graduation requirementsmirror the entrance requirements for state colleges and universities, thetransition between high school and college is facilitated. In short, parents and students should choosea public school when possible that would best meet the child’s needs.