“Private schools are not worth the money.” (from a reader)
“Public schools don’t do enough to prepare kids for college.” (from a reader)
A recent post on our Richmondmom.com Junkies Facebook page resulted in some interesting responses. Not surprisingly, all of the responses came via email since 100% of respondents preferred not to have their comments viewed or their real names used on
Facebook. The topic is “Which is Better – Public or Private Schools”?
Since a sister, neighbor, friend, or coworker may have different opinions than a respondent, it goes to reason that they would want their feedback anonymous.
How we choose to raise, educate, and teach our children is a very personal matter. That does not mean you can’t be close friends with someone who vehemently disagrees with public school, while you are happy sending your children to a public school (or visa versa). Even sisters can disagree on this topic, as we learned!
So our article is based on actual feedback from Richmond moms, but without actual names or names of schools.
Private schools are regulated by the Commonwealth of Virginia as are public schools. They must all adhere to minimum requirements within their curriculum and the environment they provide for learning. Public schools are free to the public (of course your taxes make that possible), but private schools include tuition. And that’s where our discussion begins.
Financial Aid for Private Schools
In our research, we found that most private schools offer financial aid for students through financial aid programs at the individual schools. There may be private scholarships, community aid, civic scholarships, and religious support for students needing financial assistance. Most private schools evaluate financial need based on the Parent’s Financial Statement (PFS) from the School and Student Service for Financial Aid (SSS) in Princeton, NJ. Others may use the FACTS Tuition Management Company, SMART Tuition Management Services, or Private School Aid Services. Families can receive financial assistance based on the size of the school’s endowment, its tuition costs, and the philosophy of awarding aid. Grants, merit awards, alumni gifts, and other forms of tuition are available.
There are 641 private schools in Virginia educating more than 113,000 students (includes pre-schools and pre-K/kindergarten). The vast majority of students are white (69,800+), followed by black students (9,340+), Asian-Pacific Islanders (3,600+) and Hispanic (3,491). The highest enrollment is in pre-k and kindergarten, followed by first grade.
There are almost 2,100 public schools in Virginia educating more than one million students. The split is fairly even with 340 middle schools and 339 high schools, fed by 1,173 elementary schools. There are 722,000+ white students, 320,000+ black, 77,000+ Hispanic, and 55,440+ Asian Pacific Islanders.
As you can imagine, there were differing opinions from Richmond moms about private versus public schools. We’ve separated the comments into the pros and cons from their perspectives. These are actual comments lifted from a variety of emails submitted to Richmondmom.com.
Pros of Public Schools
Pondering the differences in schools, this mom’s view is, “I have MANY good friends that send their children to private school. One sends them because of where they live…and the lack of top-notch schools. The other friends send them because of the ‘reputation’ of the private schools. So far, I’ve seen nothing different in their children that makes me wish I could send my children to private schools.”
Others made these comments:
- Neighborhood schools offer more diversity
- Children go to school with their neighborhood friends, making it easier for children and their parents to bond within the neighborhood and support each other for school activities and events
- Children get more ‘real life experiences’
- Most Virginia public schools offer quality education (although everyone noted there are exceptions based on the area in which you live)
- There is much more exposure to different ethnicity and socioeconomic differences, helping children learn about every type of lifestyle
- Children are not as “sheltered”
- There is an effective bus system that makes transportation easily accessible and safe
- My child has plenty of extracurricular and after-school interactive opportunities
- There is no worry about the financial burden, but the satisfaction that the school system is excellent
Cons of Public Schools
“Public schools get weighed down with behavioral issues and teachers struggle to keep a consistent ‘standard’ of teaching for the full classroom,” was one mom’s thought.
Others had this had to say:
- Class sizes are larger than private schools
- Teachers are often over-worked
- Some parents don’t get involved enough with the school
- Money is often tight which can negatively impact students and teachers
- Ancillary opportunities are often limited, like library, after-school activities, and more
- Many public schools rely on volunteers to help with library, lunch, and other activities – making it difficult to plan at times
- Children are not free to celebrate holidays like many private schools – instead of Christmas, they have “winter holiday” or instead of Thanksgiving celebrations, they have “fall feast” – it seems to limit their ability to really celebrate traditional holidays together
- Children can be re-zoned after you’ve chosen where you live based on the school, creating headaches for parents – and often driving parents to find private schools
One respondent explained her beliefs about public school this way “My children go to public school. My husband and I grew up in public schools and we are fortunate to live in an area where our public schools are highly sought after and rated top in the state. Our children are well adjusted without special needs so there is absolutely no reason to consider private schools. We are FLOORED at the number of people in our area that spend the $$$ to send their children to private schools when the public schools are so highly regarded. If $$$ were not a consideration I would STILL send my children to our public schools.”
Pros of Private Schools
One mom explains, “[Private school is] fantastic for those living in areas where public schools are either unsafe or have so many discipline issues that learning is hindered.”
And one mom said, “My kids go to public school, but I don’t see how you could say anything negative about private school!”
Others had this to say:
- Class sizes are smaller and there is often more time for individual attention
- There are usually more dollars for special programs, sports, and other activities
- Children often enjoy more extensive field trips and exposure to cultural venues
- Classmates come from many different areas, bringing new friendships outside the neighborhood
- Private schools are an important option if you live in an unsafe or underprivileged school zone
- Children have a better opportunity to attend their college of choice
- Curriculum is often customized to what kids need to know and not just what the SOL’s dictate
- There are fewer behavioral issues
- Private schools offer more exposure to foreign languages and arts
- Most private schools allow children to celebrate and learn about various religious holidays – a real plus to me
Cons of Private Schools
One parent had this to say, “Parents rely more on the private school to teach children everything since they’re “paying for it” – they expect the school to teach respect, hard work, kindness and other things that should be taught at home too.”
Others went on to say:
- Tuition can be sky-high
- Children miss the opportunity to grow up with more diversity
- They miss the “real world” experiences of life
- It may be difficult for parents who work and must arrange transportation since there is no bus system
- Children often have the perception they are “deserving of more” or will be admitted to any college just because they attend a particular private school
Richmond Moms Said
In addition to having their opinions about pros and cons, our moms also made these comments:
Regarding public school, one mom said, “My children ride a school bus to school. Many parents might think this is a ‘con’ but I think it enhances a school experience!”
Concerning views on college, “I hear so many of my private school friends say that this gives their children an edge to get in a great college. I don’t buy it. My husband and I are both college educated. I went to a good school–not ivy league–but good. I had so many private school kids in my sorority that I thought I was the minority. This simply reiterates that just because you go to private school doesn’t mean your child is going to be smarter or get into a better college. I feel sure that when my [children] are ready to apply for college–they will be JUST as competitive as their private school counterparts.”
“I just wish everyone could get the same education as private schools offer – but I can’t afford it and I don’t believe it’s right to take tuition grant money that could be better used somewhere else. Of course kids will be better learners when there is a lower teacher to student ratio. But this is the real world. I just try to supplement teaching at home where I feel the public schools don’t have the time or resources and I believe that my kids are just as smart as my friend’s kids who go to private school,” remarked a single mom.
“My sister sent her daughter to private kindergarten, but I didn’t. Is her kid smarter than mine? In a word, ‘no’,” was one interesting response.
Several moms commented on the availability of financial funding for private schools. One put it this way, “Financial aid for private schools seems like a waste to me. There are many intelligent children living in poor districts where the schools are not the best and they could benefit from their public school providing a better education. What if all of the money spent on kids going to private schools who live in excellent public school zones, were spent on these inner-city and poorer schools. Imagine how we could improve the community and the world. Not to mention giving more under-privileged children a chance to thrive and break the cycle of violence in which they live.”
But others were quick to point out, “It’s reassuring to know that private schools can go above and beyond in their teaching for their students and provide a much well-rounded view of subjects.” And, “Respect, values and manners are all important to our family and I know that my daughter receives that at [her private school].”
One Richmond mom summed it up this way, “I think that regardless of where you send your child to school it is our job as parents to make sure they succeed and maximize their potential!”
What do you think?