Are Private Schools Better Than Public Schools?

private-schoolIn my continuing series comparing schooling options for my kids, I’ve been thinking about private schools lately.  In our area, there are several good Christian school options, including the Greenhouse and Clapham School – if you know of any others in the area, please let me know.I’m evaluating the different schools in terms of several different criteria: teacher quality, curriculum quality, networking/community, and affordability.

In terms of teacher quality, private schools can be more hit-and-miss than public schools, because there are two different things at work when it comes to hiring teachers for private schools.  Typically, because of a lack of funding, private Christian schools are at an economic disadvantage to public schools when competing for the best teachers.  They can’t hire more experienced teachers, or the top teachers, because a public school can pay them more (and give them a pension).  This forces private Christian schools to hire younger, more inexperienced teachers.  However, private schools sometimes have something going for them—they have teachers that really believe in the school that they’re working for.  They have an added level of connection to their teachers/employees—a theological/spiritual connection.  This is something that public schools don’t have.  This might cause the private Christian school to have a more committed (and possibly more stable) teacher base.

Curriculum quality can also suffer in private schools because of a lack of funding.  In an era where public schools revamp their curriculum every year, private schools can be at a disadvantage if they don’t have the funding to do the same.  At the same time, though, I’m a firm believer that increased funding for schools doesn’t necessarily make them better at teaching children.  The curriculum at private schools will also line up better with our worldview.   Something that we would have to guard against if we were to send our children to a private Christian school is complacency—the attitude that, since we’re sending our kids to a Christian school, we can delegate the teaching of Biblical principles to the school.  We cannot do this; we are still responsible for teaching our child, and for pursuing their heart for Christ.

The community at a private school is usually pretty good, but can be insular.  Because the environment is “Christian,” it could keep us from personally living out the Great Commission to our unsaved friends and neighbors.  I also have a concern with the Christian private school community (that I’ve heard from friends who went to private schools, and that some of my friends experienced in the private Christian school that I attended overseas) that the children who attend the school can graduate with a jaded view of Christianity.  After attending the school, and seeing their teachers and other students who live a double Christian life, they come to view Christians as hypocritical—saying one thing at one time, and doing another thing at another time.  When a child sees a “Christian” student (perhaps one that they admire) stand up in front of the school and give their testimony, and then see them later behind the field house doing something that is, by any standard, sinful, they might have the tendency to discount anyone else who professes to be a Christian inviting them to become a follower of Christ.

Affordability is a big issue for me when it comes to private schools.  In my eyes, at this point, private schools are not cost effective.  You pay many thousands of dollars per year to send your child to a school that very well may have subpar teachers, subpar curriculum, and a subpar community.

Is there anyone that is currently sending their kids to a private school that could add some perspective to mine?  Is there anyone that decided not to send their kids to a private school?  If so, why not?

  • Heather

    Hey Bob —

    I know we are considering private schooling, but not necessarily a “Christian” school. Generally that option is very expensive though, because — at least in Columbus — the big private schools did not have teacher and curriculum problems you mentioned, but because of it they were cost-prohibitive unless there were scholarship opportunities (think 20,000 in tuition a year or more). The other thing we have considered is a charter school, some of which are bad and some of which are good. Fortunately, there is one close to us ( that is excellent, and that is where we are hoping to send Jack next year.

  • http://FridayFiveSuggestion Your Dad

    Love your thinking son. Which ever school you choose, public, private, home, etc. there are pluses and minuses that wise and insightful parents will have to provide for, guard against, reteach, etc. etc. As a former public school teacher I was amazed at how entire classes had a “chemistry” to themselves. One 6th grade class could be kind, and supportive to each other with a yearn to learn. Yet the next year, the 6th grade class in the same building, with the same teachers could be mean, nasty, and bullying. And this class “chemistry” would last all 3 years in the middle school??? Perhaps it comes down to your children’s mix of friends. The Bible talks about those walking with wise men will be wise, and the companion of fools will suffer harm. The fact that you are wrestling with this now before the kids hit school is “warming” to a grandparent’s heart, because it tells me that whatever your choice you’ll be monitoring, supplementing, directing, redirecting, disciplining, etc. etc. and all for the purpose of godliness. Who is it that wrote the book, Parenting Isn’t For Cowards (or some such title). I agree! It takes all the prayer, discernment, discipline and love one can muster. Personally I think the Grandparents School is the best. Send them to the grandparents where they can love ’em up good, and spoil ’em good, then send them out to conquer the world! That school sounds the best to me!

  • Aaron

    Bob, good thinking. I think something that you’ve got to keep in mind other than the dichotomy between private and public schools is the individual schools themselves. I understand that each of your pros and cons on each side are stereotypes, but that’s why you’ve got to check in to each school individually.
    It can be true (and was true for me) that a public school will have terrible teachers compared to the private school down the road.
    It can also be said that private school A has better curiculum than public school B, not because it is new and updated, but because it is a classic foundational text that can’t be beaten.
    Anyway, just a couple of thoughts from the top of my head, so they might not make any sense.

  • Kacie

    True, in general.
    Unless you find a particular school that has great teachers.

    But yeah, in general that’s the risk if you aren’t discerning.

    • Mefro

      True guys, but one more thing I believe was not mentioned is that public school teachers are on a contract and often slack off on their teaching because of it. Of course not all schools, but I’m hearing of it and seeing it more and more. Private school teachers are not on contract and can easily be fired if they do not performe or are incompetent. Therefore, they are from what I’ve seen better teachers than many at a public school. Again every school is different and every teacher different, but research academics of each school to find the best suited for your child. :)