What Are the Differences Between a Charter School and Private School?
Charter Schools vs Private Schools. What about Public schools? Not to mention Microschools? It’s undeniable that parents today have more options regarding their children’s education!
Parents that don’t want to homeschool can choose (apart from typical public schools) private educational institutions. The difference between private and public schools is usually well known, but what about charter schools?
In this article, I cover the following questions (and more!):
- Are charter schools private or public?
- Are they the same as private schools?
- What’s the average cost of charter schools?
- Are charter schools better than public schools?
Keep reading to learn about the similarities and differences between charter and private schools and where your child is most likely to thrive.
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What’s a Charter School?
A charter school is an educational institution that is publicly funded but managed privately.
First, this means that charter schools receive money from public institutions. Second, the money they get depends on the number of students, so charter school students don’t need to pay tuition fees.
Charter schools are founded based on a governing principle named “a charter” (hence the name).
They’re created not only by parents, teachers, and administrators but also by sponsoring organizations, which can be other nonprofit educational organizations, private companies, or even individuals. They should make clear the school’s philosophy and baseline success criteria for teachers and students.
All charter schools focus on a mission. They may focus on arts, project-based learning, or STEM-centered education. They must be approved by a state, county, or municipality.
About 6% of kids in the U.S. are enrolled in K-12 charter schools. Read more about charter schools here.
What’s a Private School?
Private schools are private educational organizations run by private individuals. They don’t get public money and depend on income from students’ tuition and private donations.
Many private schools are religiously affiliated and require religious education. In the U.S., organizations related to Catholic Church manage more than 40% of them.
There are many other types of private schools: boarding schools, schools with a specific approach (Montessori, Waldorf, etc.), language-specific schools, and others.
Private schools can choose who they want to admit, and if they don’t receive federal money, they don’t have to meet some federal requirements. However, they must follow basic state guidelines, such as teaching, reading, and math.
About 10% of kids in the U.S. are enrolled in K-12 private schools.
Learn more about types of private schools here.
Charter Schools vs. Private Schools: Similarities
There are more differences than similarities between charter and private schools, but there are also some similarities as well. No wonder people often confuse these two systems.
These are the things that both systems have in common.
Alternatives to Traditional Public Schools
Both charter and private schools offer more flexibility in their curriculum.
The difference between public and private school curricula is more extensive in terms of flexibility than the difference between charter and private curricula.
Autonomous from Certain State Government Regulations
Both types of institutions are autonomous.
Private schools must adhere to some basic state guidelines, and charter schools must meet specific standards if they want to secure funding.
Charter Schools vs. Private Schools: Differences
The differences are plenty. Let me go over the main ones.
Charter schools are publicly funded. Private schools get their money from tuition and donations.
Charter schools don’t charge tuition, unlike private schools. Private school tuition can be pretty expensive, making them inaccessible for many families.
That’s why in the U.S., private schools are less racially and socially diverse. Charter schools’ students are 33% Hispanic and 26% Black because of no initial financial impediments.
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Private schools may choose who to admit and are often very selective. The admission process may depend on the initial entrance exams or, for example, religious requirements.
Charter schools are forbidden to discriminate during the admission process. A lottery is applied when enrollment fills up.
Religious and Political Influence
Private schools receive private money and therefore are tied to the institutions and individuals who sponsor and fund them. The ideology of the sponsoring bodies can penetrate the classroom environment. For example, private schools often teach religious courses.
Charter schools must keep their curriculum free from religious or political influence.
Although charter schools enjoy great curriculum flexibility, they are still accountable and need to meet the standard mentioned by their charters.
They also need to follow federal educational laws.
Private schools are not accountable to anyone but their clients, meaning the parents. So if these schools don’t fulfill their promises, they risk losing their students and income. They need to meet basic state regulations, such as the length of the school year, core subjects provided, etc.
Charter schools must hire certified teachers with valid credentials. However, private schools can hire teachers based on other requirements without requesting any teaching certification.
Is a Charter School Better Than a Private School?
I wouldn’t dare say that charter schools are better than private schools.
I think they’re simply different, and it depends on what you’re looking for.
A private school might be the best option if you’re looking for an institution that agrees with your religious values. Some private K-12 schools are also strongly oriented toward high-performing and talented kids. So if this is your case, you might also be eager to spend additional money on your child’s education.
Charter schools might be a better option for families that are not satisfied with the public education system, but cannot afford to spend lots of money on their child’s school.
It’s also a good option for those who want to avoid political or religious affiliations during their kid’s educational path.
If you want to see what parents think about charter schools vs private schools, have a look at these survey results. Here’s more information if you want to learn about Public School vs. Homeschooling or hybrid homeschooling.
You Know What’s Best for Your Child
In the end, you are the only ones who know what’s best for your child.
When looking at charter vs private schools, you’ll see pros and cons on both sides. Only you can decide which weighs more in your specific case and where your kid can thrive the most.
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