Public School vs Private School?


Recently I was getting together with some buddies of mine to catch up over a few beers. Funny how much our conversations have changed over the years, considering I am expecting my first child, my other friend is expecting his second daughter, and another already has two kids. So now family and kids dominant the conversation these days, which is great actually, because previously is was more trivial issues like sports, weekend events, golf, and boys’ trips. Boy has life changed for us over the last few years!

I previously wrote about saving for college and deciding between a 529 plan or a Coverdell Education Savings Account (ESA). Well, my friends and I spoke about this a bit as well and the 529 won out across the board, solely because of the contribution limits, which was my conclusion as well.

Public School or Private School?

The talk of saving for college brought up a more philosophical education question for your child; public school or private school? And now that conversation includes not just college but high school and even earlier “private” education. When I looked up the cost of private schooling the results just floored me.

To give you some background and my group of friends and me, we’re all obviously Millennials and we all grew up together in middle to slightly upper-middle class city. We all went to public high school and a state university. The one caveat is one of my really good friends did go out of state for college and went to an Ivy League school, which is a phenomenal feat and probably most parents’ dream. So good for him and his family on accomplishing that. He is the one outlier in the group though as we’re all “public school” educated and doing fairly well in life, both personally and professionally for now being out of college for 10+ years. All of our careers are moving in the right direction.

Now back to our philosophical question of public versus private schooling. My one friend said they are 100% planning on sending their two daughters to private school, and by private school I mean early childhood education. Not just private high school. The yearly tuition rates at the school he will send his two daughters to is astounding. See for yourself.

2016-2017 TUITION

Pre-Kindergarten (full day): $18,820
Kindergarten (full day)-grade 5: $23,510
Grades 6-12: $25,430

I fully understand tuition is different for every child because of grants, financial aid, etc. But either way, those numbers are jaw dropping in my eyes when you consider public schooling, kindergarten throughout high school is free (except for a few minimal annual schooling fees).

Is Private School Really Better Than Public?

I have three “sibling” in-laws, two sisters and one brother, all of which are public educators. My two sister in-laws teach young elementary aged children, while my brother in law teaches high school students. All of them are very passionate and one has a master degree in childhood education. I’ve talked to each of them multiple times about the difference in public versus private and a lot of the variance is purely on curriculum (and funding, obviously). A public school has a set teaching curriculum to follow, whereas a private school can change to emphasize some subjects over others (like science and math).

I think the main misnomer about private school is that the teachers aren’t exactly “more qualified” thank teachers at public schools. In reality, there are actually more requirements and standards for public schools then there are for private. I think people think most teachers at a private high school are equivalent to a professor at a university and their background in the field (formal education and research). That is simply not the case.

Public School is Just Fine

I will get off my soapbox now as being very anti-private schools, because it’s obviously ever families own personal decision to do this. If you have the funds to send your child to private school, by all means go for it. But don’t profess that your child is getting a substantially better education than those of us sending our kids to public school. Your child can still get into a great college when going to public high school (see my great friend who made it to an elite Ivy League school). And they can still be successfully when going to public school all the way through college. Me and my friends are all doing fine and I know tons of people who were “publicly” educated.

I just urge all Millennial parents to really research and think twice about private school. It feels way more of a status symbol than an educational play, in my opinion. At the end of the day, your child is as successful as you want them to be, regardless of public or private. If you are highly involved in your child’s schooling, homework, and lives in general, I think they will be just fine.

Being Involved As a Parent is What Matters Most

That is my humble advice from a soon-to-be parent. I will be sending my child to public school, but I will be as involved as humanly possible with their schooling. I want to push my child to work as hard as possible in their schooling and studying. I know that will guarantee more success in life than which particular school they attend.


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