Public School or Private School? Do your homework …

All parents at some point are likely to have the discussion as their children start to grow, learn, talk, walk, etc.  Do we put our kids in public school or private school? Assuming we can afford private school … is it really any better than public school? What are some advantages? What about any disadvantages?


While it is certainly every parent’s own decision to choose what school their little Johnny or little Susie will attend, there are benefits of both public and private schools. You have to do your homework. Choosing a school for your child is one of the most important decisions that you will make! To do a good job, you have to educate yourself so you can be a savvy consumer. That means researching, networking, and making sure that you understand all of the choices available to you and your child.  Here’s a quick breakdown of things to think about from the staff at Growing Up in the Valley. You may agree (or you may not!), but we thought of some things to think about as you ponder public schools vs. private schools.

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First, let’s tackle the benefits of public schools:

  1. Teachers have more qualifications. According to a major study from the National Center for Education Statistics, public school teachers tend to be more qualified than their independent school counterparts in terms of education and experience. For example, they’re more likely to have a master’s degree, and to have logged more hours pursuing in-service study — learning, for example, how to use computers in the classroom. The report also indicates that on average, public school teachers earn higher salaries than those in private schools do.
  2. Students spend more time studying core subjects. The same study reports that public school students study core subjects — including English, math, social studies, and science — three more hours per week than private school students.
  3. Public schools can sponsor more activities. When it comes to offering extra-curricular sports and clubs, academic support, and better supplies and learning tools, public schools have the edge. Why? Most public schools are simply bigger than private schools, and have enough students to pull off a science fair or power a chorus or computer club. What’s more, federal and state laws require public schools to provide diagnostic and disability services. Public schools are more likely to offer gifted and talented and remedial programs, too.
  4. The student population tends to be more diverse. A private education is usually out of reach for poorer students, which means that it’s less likely to introduce your child to children of various races and socioeconomic backgrounds. If you want your child to know children from all walks of life, then a public school is for you.

Now, let’s look at some of the benefits of private schools:

  1. Schools and classes tend to be much smaller. According to the National Center for Education Statistics study, private schools tend to be half as large as public schools. Many experts feel that children are less likely to get lost in the shuffle if they attend a smaller school, which naturally nurtures a sense of community and belonging. In addition, the teacher-student ratios in private schools tend to be more favorable, says the National Association for Independent Schools. On average, private schools have a student-teacher ratio of 9:1 as opposed to about 17:1 in public schools.
  2. There’s often less bureaucracy. Because private schools don’t have to abide by certain state regulations, they spend less time on mandated paperwork and more on instruction. They also are not compelled to focus on test scores. As a result, teachers tend to enjoy more autonomy in the classroom and have more creative control over their teaching methods.
  3. Parent involvement is strong. Not only do private schools encourage parents’ participation, but it’s also true that the parents of private school students tend to be extremely committed to having a say in their child’s education.


What are your thoughts? We would love to hear some of our readers’ comments and feedback on the question that is so often debated. In Southwest and Central Virginia, we are lucky! There are many great public AND private schools to choose from.  For more information on a couple of private schools, check out Roanoke Catholic School in Roanoke, Virginia ( or North Cross School — also in Roanoke, Virginia (


And don’t forget … as mom and dad (or grandparent, aunt, uncle, guardian, etc.) the choice is YOURS, based on what’s best for your family and your student!

Tracy Fisher

Tracy Fisher is Growing Up in the Valley's head designer. She has been a part of the publication since March 2012. She is the proud mother of Charlotte, 6. She also eats too much chocolate.
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