In the endless debate about private versus public schools, a recent report released by Oxford Economics points toward greater overall public benefit when students graduate from private schools. The study shows that Britain’s private school graduates hold 275,000 jobs in the U.K., and generate more than $7 billion in national tax revenue.
This benefit of private schooling is also upheld by parent opinions further west, where a Gallop poll shows that 78% of Americans feel that private schools provide a superior education. Private schools topped the preference list, followed by parochial schools, charter schools, and home schooling respectively. Public schools ranked the lowest, garnering only 38% of the vote.
“Private schools will always provide a higher level of education, as classes are smaller and there is more attention given to each student individually,” explains Walter Ribeiro, Director of the Richmond Hill Montessori & Elementary Private School.
The push toward private education is catching on in several states, where state Senates are passing bills to help fund low-income families that want to send their children to a private school of their choice. In Tennessee, the proposed bill to subsidize 5,000 low-income students attending sub-par performing schools was impeded by the House, but could be implemented as early as next year.
North Carolina’s history of low performing schools forced the state General Assembly to request funding for more than 2,000 low-income students in private school settings, using public money. Each student would receive $4,200 based on the proposed plan, and would cost about $10 million in total.
In Chicago, the public school system is also pushing for more privatization. The school board is growing increasingly concerned about three of its lowest performing public schools, and is considering privatizing them, turning them over to the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL). The AUSL claims that recently privatized schools have seen higher reading and math test scores across the board, and have helped transform poor academic schools.
But these initiatives have been met with substantial opposition, and challenges from top-performing public schools. Some school officials are arguing that public schools lack the resources they need to provide children with a quality education. One school council president in the Chicago public school district is asking for more professional development for educators, frequent speech and language therapist visits, and funding to decrease class sizes. Public schools around the nation are also stepping up their efforts, and in this month’s release of the top ranked schools in the country, U.S. News places various public schools in the top five.
Even with these efforts, perceptions are often the leading factor in choosing private versus public education. Parents seem to value the benefits of smaller schools, individualized attention, and specialized teaching methods, particularly in schools like Montessori, where student interest and ability drive teacher lessons instead of a state-mandated curriculum.
While there is no solid winner in the private versus public school dispute, parents often lean in the direction of private schools, because they believe these schools provide their children with best education possible. Whether this mean private or public school is up for debate in each district, but as long as their children can graduate, get a solid degree, and find a good job, parents will continue to want to send their children to the highest performing schools in their town.