Schools & Education

The Pros and Cons for Charter, Public, and Private Schools, Oh My!

The debate between charter school, public school, or private school seems never ending. There is good reason for this, ultimately, the decision rests on the parent and child.

No one can tell you where to send your child for their education. It is, however, one of the most important decisions you will ever make for your kid. In my 9 years of experience, I have taught at two charter schools, two public schools, a private school, and an international private school. I also taught at a religious-based private pre-school. (While I was getting my degree.)

I can’t tell you what the right answer is for your family. What I can share with you are my experiences and what is great about each option.

A Case for Public School

I think public schools are a great option depending on where you live. Many suburban areas have great public school systems. If you live in a city area like me, that is debatable. Because public schools are funded by taxpayer dollars, areas with higher taxes are going to have better schools.

Public School Pros:

  • High levels of community involvement
  • Greater diversity
  • Varied curriculum
  • A plethora of after-school activities
  • Certified teachers
  • Location

In the public schools where I’ve worked, I will say I feel like I had plenty of support from my administration. I also had access to supplies because I worked at Title 1 schools. There was a huge sense of community and we were always working with people in the area to make the neighborhood better for our students and families.

I also think that public schools offer a wide variety of classes and curriculum options.

Public School Cons:

  • Teaching to tests
  • Teacher burn out – low pay, low motivation translates to low performance
  • Particularly in some of the city areas, there is a lack of discipline system

Ultimately, I think finding a good public school is the key to getting a good education for your child. If you don’t have that option, keep reading to learn more about charters and private schools.

A quick little note: Magnet schools are part of the public school system. The difference with these schools is that they are usually offering a specific program that you won’t find other places. They pull students from multiple zip codes to create their school.

Charter or Not to Charter?

Let’s begin with a little definition of a charter school.

Charter schools are government funded institutions but they operate independently of the state school system. Often, they are started by teachers, parents, or community groups. They offer choice and are still accountable for academic results.

Charter School Pros:

  • Usually, they follow a specific prescribed curriculum
  • May have smaller class sizes (though not always in the city)
  • Certified Teachers
  • They offer a choice for parents and students

What do I mean prescribed curriculum? Well, you will find that charter schools tend to follow one learning system or what educators call pedagogy.

So for example, you might find a Montessori school, mastery learning, direct instruction, and many more various types of different pedagogies. Each one has pros and cons within itself, and you want to explore what kind of learning happens at the different schools.

Charter School Cons:

  • May use scripted curriculum**
  • Charters are contracts, so if it is pulled or doesn’t meet the requirements the following year, you have to find a new school for little Johnny
  • Often times turn away students with disabilities
  • Can be less diverse

**My two sense on using scripted curriculum: If you see this when investigating what school to send your child to, run fast and hard.

A charter school I worked for used this. As an intervention teacher for this school, I was only allowed to reread the script these students had already been taught. Let me tell you, this is not an effective way to educate a child. Especially if they have any kind of learning disability or just need alternate methods of learning.

The Good, The Bad, The Private School

Lastly, I am going to discuss the pros and cons of private schools. These schools definitely have their place and are one of a kind when it comes to education practices. I think the theory of private schools is a good one, but sometimes the practice can get political.

Pros to Private Schools:

  • Parents are valued members of the school
  • High level of classroom autonomy
  • Project-based classrooms
  • Smaller classes
  • Access to supplies

If you want to have the most say in your child’s education, then a private school is for you. This can be good and bad. Difficult for the teachers, but nice for parents.

My favorite thing about working in the private school system was the small class size. For parents and teachers alike, this is a good thing, because it means more one to one attention for the students.

I also liked that the curriculum was pretty much up for grabs. I could really use any of my creative ideas and implement them in the class.

Private School Cons:

  • Cost, depending on where you live, private schools can be more than college tuition
  • Run like a business, not a school
  • Transportation (may be difficult to get your student to school)
  • Teachers don’t need to be certified

I think that my least favorite thing about working in the private school sector was that they didn’t really value the teacher. We were seen as replaceable. They cater to the parents because they get the big bucks from them. It is harder to find someone willing to pay $30,000 a year for their child’s education than it is to higher someone willing to work for $40,000 a year.

As a parent looking to send your child to a private school, that attitude should concern you because it will mean under qualified teachers.


I hope you stuck with me for this lengthy look into our schooling system. The choice remains in the hands of the parent, but hopefully now you have a better idea of what each school is and how they work.

As always, subscribe for weekly teaching goodies. I also want to say thank you to Elizabeth at Small Town Mama for collaborating on this article. For more resources on parenting, visit Small Town Mama.

Leave me a comment below and let me know what you think about the different types of schools!

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