Public or Private? A look into the essential differences.

Private school and public school are often reduced to the most basic difference — price. However, there are other aspects to consider when comparing the two, such as academic rigor, teacher-student attention, and differing COVID-19 safety measures. 


When comparing public and private schools, you must consider two things: class size and funding. Since private schools are not state-funded, the curriculum is going to look different. According to the Private School Review, out of the 3,788 private schools in California, 50% of them have religious affiliations. Students will be expected to “attend mass and observe the other practices and holidays” even when the students’ or parents’ religion doesn’t align. This addition to the curricula may result in longer days for the students. (education degree) Next, we can look at class size. The average public schools class sizes can look between “25 to 30 students (or more)”. In comparison, private schools offer a more personal size between “average of 10 to 15 students” (thoughtco). Having a smaller student-to-teacher ratio allows for students to receive more attention from their teachers, preventing them from being left behind. 

Student Life 

Private schools are going to require more from the student. An average of 40% of private schools demand some sort of community service to graduate. They also require 0.4 more years of math and 1 year more of foreign languages. Moreover, some schools make participation in an athletic sport mandatory, so students will be booked and busy. (publicshoolreview) 


Since public schools are funded by the state system, they must make accommodations for disabled students. According to the Public School Review, “Special education laws make it mandatory for public schools to educate and meet the special needs of these children.” The article on goes in depth over the legal side of private schools and disability classes. They state that private schools are “not covered under IDEA 2004”, so they are not required to provide special education classes.  It should be noted that there are private schools that cater to disabled students exclusively in California; there are “199 special education private schools” out of 3,788 in total. (privateschoolreview)


Public school admission is free, but that doesn’t mean education is free. Parents must buy school supplies, additional books, and sometimes uniforms. Additionally, the best public schools are located in neighborhoods where houses have a higher average home value. So, some parents add their mortgage to the cost of a good education. Private schools cost on average a total of “$12,350” annually. (usanews) Day schools, and non-residential schools,  tend to be cheaper than boarding schools due to the housing cost. 


Covid has changed the landscape forever. It’s essential to see how schools have adapted. In public schools, we’ve seen a rush to quarantine and place online those exposed. (link to TZ quarantine blog) While private schools, due to their smaller size and lack of teachers, the union has been able to open and return in-person faster than public schools have. (calmatters) Many frustrated parents have made the switch from public to private. 

The Choice 

The decision to attend private school or public school is situational. It all depends on the needs of the family. Whatever choice a family makes, the student’s well-being is most important. 

Written by Lilian Salas


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