Do you really know where your child to go to school and how do you know this? Good chance, like most people, you believe that private school education is superior to public school education. What is that “fact” based on? This essay is the attempt to inform you, as parents and Americans, as to what the facts and statistics are in the argument of public versus private education. The truth is that public education is argumentatively better than private education based on choice, competition, and autonomy as well as a few other key points that are well worth discussing because when it comes down to it, education and making the right choice for your child is imperative to the outcome of their (and your) lives.
Contrary to popular belief, giving parents the ability to choose between schools for their children, just as they would choose breakfast cereals, is not always a good thing. One would think that parents, as consumers, would choose an educational institution based on high academic achievement because that's is what school is about. The truth is, according to Jeffery Aaron Snyder's Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools; “Parents frequently rely on factors that have no bearing on academic quality, including a school's proximity, its racial composition and religious orientation, even whether it has a uniform policy” (Snyder 3). Another factor that comes into play on choice is the fact that private schools are deemed “superior” by society. The brand on public schools is basically that they are all failures and low level government run institutions. Along with that it is also assumed by many that public schools have low test scores and low success rates. The fact is; “A Stanford University student found that students at charter schools were more likely to score worse than public school students than they were to outperform those students-- 37% of charter schools did worse than comparable public schools, while only 17% did better. The rest, 46%, scored the same” (Niles 2). Giving parents the choice to shop for a school would be a good thing if parents were to base a school choice ultimately on academics, instead of the nonessentials.
Competition amongst schools is a strong fight using the marketplace and advertising system to draw parents and children towards a specific school. Most private schools boast about advanced courses, dedicated teachers, and technology involved in curriculum. Personally, my High School had laptops we had to pay for (which we paid more than what they originally cost) and there were many bugs on the laptops. The classes were low level in general and we had a very light workload as far as homework. The teachers mostly did not care what we did as long as we showed up and barely taught anything worthwhile. Coming into college I was unprepared for essays, mathematics, and time management skills. So much for an advanced education. My old high school focused more of the tuition on marketing for next year's enrollment than they did providing for the students. As stated in Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools; “The data shows that schools in competitive environments tend to invest more resources in screening out lower on students who sub-par test scores would damage the school's academic reputation, or they spend more money on marketing in order to keep their enrollment numbers up” (Snyder 3). On the other hand, public schools use their funding for better purposes. The government funds public schools with tax dollars and the money is distributed based on the schools individual school board. Most of the time the money is divvied out for everything from books in the library to sports, extracurricular activities, improving classes and the buildings, to cafeteria food, and teacher salaries. Public schools do not need to market because they accept basically everyone. Private schools focus so much into hand picking the best students to up their average scores, where public schools do not have a choice. The difference between the types of schools can put a warped viewpoint on the world for students. To get into my private high school we had to take a standardized test to decide where our intelligence level resided. Afterwards when the selection was narrowed down, we had two sit down interviews with faculty members, the principal, and head priest. The first of the two was with our parents where a full credit check was required, and the second was alone to determine level of social skills. Then after all of this hassle we were sent a letter home with a response if we were accepted or not. These methods narrowed down not only the less intelligent kids out of the process, but also the students with poor social skills, and the families that could not afford tuition. Public schools cannot do this because it is governed a different way. Every student is treated equal and all are accepted no matter the race, gender, wealth, or social status. Robert Niles from the Huffington Post states; “public schools have to serve every child in a community. They don't get you cherry-pick only the brightest or wealthiest students, and that's a large part of their appeal to me. Attend a public school, and you're getting to know people from every corner of your community, not just people of the same religion or social class, you're part of the, well, public” (Niles 2). This was very prominent in my high school that most of the families were wealthy, white, catholic people. I am honest when I say there was not a single African-American student in my school. Some of the students were only accepted based on a large donation from the family, or because of a parent's social status in the area. Why would that be any reason to accept a child into a school? My viewpoint on the world was quickly changed when I arrived at college. There are races of all kinds, and people succeeding and failing all around me. I have only been exposed to success and rewards for grades and now it is either pass the course with hard work or fail miserably. This is not how I saw the world in my “perfect private school”.
Autonomy is another major factor between the public and private schooling systems. Public schools have to follow specific guidelines for up to date curriculum, focus on important topics, and certain classes are mandatory for students. Following what Snyder states “public school teachers are subject to more stringent certification regulations as well as more frequent professional development and oversight, they end up being more plugged into recent advances in curriculum and instruction” (Snyder 4,5). Private schools are not treated this way in these senses. Teachers can change the curriculum based on what they want to teach whether it is modern or not. The online review page GreatSchools staff states; “Private schools do not receive tax revenues so they do not have to follow the same sort of regulations and bureaucratic processes that govern public schools” (GreatSchools staff 2). They also make low importance classes mandatory over important courses that are optional. For example, I was to take one religion based course once a year but was not made to take a math, science, business, or history course. My junior year first half consisted of weightlifting as a physical education course, basics of drawing, the messages of Jesus religion course, and music history. I received “full credits” which were not accepted by most colleges. Private schools can have poor years grade wise and still succeed because they are funded by tuition from students. Private schools are allowed to bend rules and classes simply because they can afford to support themselves. The students attending the school pay tuition rates which are sometimes very high. My high school tuition was around $12,000 a year after books and meal plan expenses. With all this money from hundreds of students the school can easily support itself, but that is usually not a good thing. According to The Week; “The average private school tuition in the U.S. for a non-sectarian elementary school is $15,945 a year, and $27,302 a year for secondary school. Catholic elementary school will run you on average $4,944 for elementary school and $7,826 for secondary school; other religious schools average $6,576 for elementary and $10,493 for secondary” (Jyoti 1). Public schools do not have this advantage in self-sufficiency. As Snyder remarks; “public schools that consistently failed to meet their targets can be reorganized, re-staff, and even shut down” (Snyder 4). The ability to self-govern an academic institution is in essence, a dangerous capability and parents should not consider this a benefit.
I hope with the truth now known, people will not be swayed by here-say and false malarkey. Public schools are superior to private schools based on things such as choice, competition, and the disillusionment of autonomy. Send your child to a public school and give them a good start to their lives. Public school will benefit you and your child and prepare them for the real world. Public school will not give them rose colored glasses and it will not drain your bank account. Make the smart choice!
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