Are Private Schools Worth the Money They Demand?

I admit it, I am a product of public schools from pre-school through college and I am quite proud of it. By going to public schools I helped my parents save a king's ransom and going to a public college is a big reason why I ended up with no loans and a good amount of savings. I married a man who loved his sixteen plus years of private education but it is hard for me to fathom how much money his parents had to spend over those years. One day we had a discussion about having kids and he said we would have to send them to private school, and I said I did not think it was worth the money because I got an excellent education in public schools. So he argued his case for private schools and I will list some of his points here.

1. Private schools give families the choice to live where they want

Generally families are assigned to public school districts by the location of their home. This creates expensive real estate in the towns that are supposed to have a good public school district. It is probably cheaper to pay for a private school for a few years than to pay for an extremely high mortgage in an expensive area with a good public school.

2. Families have a choice in the educational curriculum

For schools to be accredited they do have to have an approved core curriculum, but private schools can teach additional things like religion or design specialty programs that focus on math and science. Many people choose private schools for religious reasons and it is understandable to choose belief over money. My husband was able to choose a school that focused on engineering and he loved the projects he had in high school.

3. Students get more individual attention with smaller class sizes

I am not sure that this is true in all cases. I went to a very small public high school and I felt like I had a lot of attention from my teachers, but once I entered UC Berkeley I was a bit overwhelmed by the auditorium sized classes. So I do think that smaller class sizes are better and on average private schools do have smaller classes than public schools.

4. Equipment and resources are more abundantly available

This is probably true for the most part because private schools generally have more funding per student than large public schools. I remember that my science lab in high school was quite dilapidated and consisted of a few tables and sinks. I did tour a private high school once and they had the most beautiful art room and labs and I was awfully jealous.

After my husband made his points, I am not totally counting out private schools for my offspring now. The frugal part of me still is not completely convinced that it is worth spending over a hundred thousand dollars for private high schools. When it gets to the college level many state universities can be just as competitive as private institutions. I think ultimately it is up to our future children to excel in their own manner. If they are excellent students they will be able to get scholarships, and if they wanted to they can flourish in a public school. On the other hand, if they do not care about succeeding then it does not matter how much money I spend on them. Wise Bread readers, do you think that private schools give you an edge? Are they really worth the money if you had to pay full price?

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Guest's picture

As some background, I attended private parochial schools through eighth grade, a small public high school and a small private college.

I think private schools are worthwhile for children. The biggest reason is that no one tends to get "lost in the shuffle." Public schools have fewer resources, normally, and that lends itself to educating to the middle of the group. Those that lag behind get left and those that excel get bored. Private schools are better able to give individual attention to all levels during the education process.

Guest's picture

Actually, it is quite false that private schools, on average, spend more per pupil than public schools. However, a large chunk of public school per-pupil spending goes for meeting the needs of special needs students (disability, ESL students, etc.), whom the public schools are legally obligated to accommodate. Another chunk goes toward the necessarily larger administrative overhead; whether it's 10 elementary schools or 100 to coordinate, it's going to cost more. Finally, I believe public school teacher salaries are actually higher on average than private schools. So it's really an apples-to-oranges comparison.

The "all comers" aspect of the public schools makes it difficult to compare outcomes. There couldn't be a worse selection bias if you tried! There is evidence, though, that when you control for socioeconomic factors, private school students perform the same or in some cases worse than matched public-school counterparts.

That said, the answer to your question is surely "it depends." On where you live: there are places, for example, with both a reasonable cost of living and very decent public schools. Places where the public schools a mediocre but there aren't better private alternatives. Places where the motivated parent can get their child into a specialized public education setting for free, such as a magnet or charter school. On your kids: are they academically inclined? do they have special needs? what setting are they socially most comfortable in?

Guest's picture

Reply to;
Actually, it is quite false
Submitted by Kathryn on January 31, 2008 - 05:04.

Actually, it is quite false that private schools, on average
I would really like to know where this person has recieved there information from ? I myself went to a Catholic private school up to 10th. grade when my parents swithed me to public school. I was so far ahead when I was in private school I had enough points to graduate in 10th grade public school?? Also 70% was passing in private school verses 60% passing in public school. Plus I had maybe 1 study hall in private school verses back to back study halls in public school. Plus Home schooled children tend to have HIGHER SAT scores than those in public school. I'm just talking from first hand knowledge.

Guest's picture

I live in the Northeast, which should become relevant in a minute. I attended a Catholic grammar school and the local public high school.

I think it all depends on the child. In terms of higher education what you need is a big fish in a big pond (ultimately, if you can get it). Colleges and Universities are looking for diversity and those students who stood out among their peers. Now, this can be accomplished in a variety of ways, get them Irish Step Dancing and have them win Worlds, colleges will accept them. But, academically, it's harder to do.

My Catholic school was fine. I did have one amazing teacher in the 7th and 8th grade who made everything related to English a breeze from then on because, if you'll pardon my French, she kicked our arses and didn't take any BS and she was a nun. At the time we thought she was Satan in a habit but since I've learned to appreciate her and would call her one of my best teachers ever. After 8th grade 'graduation', many of my classmates went on to all female or all male Catholic high schools, a few to suburban public, and I went to the local, urban, not with the best reputation because I"m a rebel, public high school (Lawrence High in Lawrence, MA for any of you familiar). I came out 3rd in my class (I"m a total school slacker, I learn and retain easily therefore the effort necessary to make it to Valedictorian would have eaten into my social time, any tips on how to change this with my masters program are totally welcome.) with the actual highest SAT score in my class (loads of ESL students) and was accepted to all colleges applied, with the exception of Bowdoin and Tufts, classmates ranked lower than I but of a more ethnic persuasion were accepted at both. (Just for the record, that got me into UMass Amherst, Middlebury, Hamilton College, Tulane University, George Washington University and I think American University.)

Some would maybe make an argument that, yeah, I went to a subpar school and stood out, but how did I do in college?? Well, I went to Tulane, slacker mentality prevailed and I graduated with a 3.3 GPA, BA in Art History and plenty of time on my hands to party hardy at Mardi Gras. Since I've pretty much slacked around for a while without direction and now I'm going for my masters in education from UMass Boston and hope to teach in an urban high or middle school. See,the secret is these schools get LOADS of funding and loads of opportunities and my school, at least, was not plagued by the John Hughes syndrome (nerds, geeks, jocks, slackers), we knew we were all sort of underdogs in the eyes of the surrounding community and we bonded together. If you were in more advanced classes than someone else they didn't label you, they asked for help with their math homework. It was great.

Now, Lawrence High had a program were you could spend a semester at Phillips Andover and I took advantage of this. I will admit it was fun to live there, the food was free and plentiful and yummy, and the classes were interesting (we only took two I think, I took an acting class and Urban Studies which is why we were there, take the poor kids and see how they react, I'm not kidding) and we had to keep up with our work at LHS so our teachers came to visit once a week and we had no problems. My point is Andover has a place BUT the vast majority of people I met there and I think you can check this out, ended up at UMass. A large number of Andover grads do NOT end up at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, etc because those schools don't want them. They want big fish and you're basically competing with a bunch of people in the same boat as you, at best you're a fish in a fishpond. And I am not disparaging UMass at all, I almost went there, but who spends $20k + on high school for a kid hoping he'll get into the local, public, state University?

And, after all that, my point is, it's all dependent on the child. If you have a smart kid who will do well and needs a bit of a challenge, I'd send them public and not really worry about 'good' districts. (the 'good' district by me has lost all funding for sports, all art and all music, although parents might be able to pay a fee because the override or tax hike or whatever failed.) You can get an education anywhere and everywhere has good, dedicated teachers to help with this. There are also crap teachers everywhere. If your child needs extra attention or extra motivation, I'd go private because that's where they excel and the smaller class sizes would benefit. Students with a tougher time will not slip through the cracks as easily at smaller, private schools. That said, a student, if he or she wants to, can disappear in any setting.

Should I have children, I will struggle with this question myself. My main points right now is that I am adamant that they will pay for their own college education (most of it) and I will not reinvent their room at home in college by hiring a decorator, etc. I think that's stupid.

Julie Rains's picture

Your husband makes some valid points -- and definitely items to consider, such as the cost of buying a home in a great school district vs. paying private school tuition, opportunity for specialized training, etc. Public charter schools and magnet schools can tilt the balance back toward public schools in some systems. There is a new magnet high school in my area offering specialized studies in biotechnology and computer engineering, for example.

You may have seen this report on the Nations (USA) Schools: basically, kids at private schools do perform better than those at public schools; but if you adjust for socio-economic factors, they perform about the same (depending on the grade and type of private school, public schools outperform private schools). The message being that you shouldn't make assumptions about what type of school is better but check out the schools, public and private in your area before making a decision.

In my area, parents are often surprised that, when they switch from private to public schools, their children lag in academic performance. So I should mention that I, too, attended public schools from elementary school through college.

Guest's picture

One thing to remember here is that the public vs. private debate is not an all or nothing proposal. You don't have to commit to either 13 years of one or 13 years of the other. I started kindergarten in a public school and stayed there until second grade, when we moved to a city that had bad public education. In fifth grade, we moved again, this time to a wealthy district, but one whose elementary education was only geared for the "lowest common denominator". By seventh grade, I'd reentered public education, and stayed there until the end of my undergrad studies.

Yes, it's expensive, but when the alternative just isn't feasible, it may be best to consider all the alternatives, one year at a time. From my experience in the schools I went to, "Are you coming back next year?" was a very common question.

Guest's picture

I think this is highly dependent on the child. I attended public school from elementary through high school, but went to a private college. I hated school, but loved college. My son has attended both public and private schools. I don't necessarily believe that private schools offer a better education. The only difference is they push harder and move faster because the parents are paying for their kids to attend.

I put my son in a private school because the public school we were in was horrible. He wasn't learning anything. He was bored, unchallenged, plus he needed help fitting in socially and the school district was unwilling to offer him services based on his academics. I thought putting him in a private school would offer him a better education, with smaller class sizes, and I would see some positive benefits. It was the worst decision I ever made. My ten year old nearly had an emotional breakdown by the end of the year due to the massive amounts of work, the emphasis on written work, the fact that he didn't fit in, and by the end of the year he was so burned out, that I felt guilty for even trying this experiment.

We moved to a different school district, and he is back in public school. He is receiving the help he needed socially. The work is still unchallenging for him, most of it is a repeat of what he learned last year, but he does well. I don't think we need to worry about straight A's in fifth grade. The school has clubs, and he is in a science club that he really enjoys. It is a much better school than the private school I sent him to last year that cost several thousand dollars. It may not be the BEST public school in my area, in fact it is rated as a failing school, but it is a good fit for my son.

Before considering another private school, I'd have to see some reason why the public school system couldn't offer the same thing. My experience is that kids who have learning disabilities, ADHD, Asperger's or other challenges do not do well in private schools. Most private schools look for kids who can do their work without extra motivation, basically, they look for the "good kids." My son doesn't fit that profile. He's better off in a public school that offers him a certain amount of services for his learning disabilities and doesn't push loads of work on him. In private school we were doing at least two hours of homework a night, and often more like four or five. Now, we seldom do more than two. Usually homework is done in about an hour.

The only way I'd put a child like my son back in a private school is if it was a school specifically for kids with learning difficulties. Otherwise, he can continue to attend the local public school, even if it might not be the best school, until college. Then he can decide if he wants to go to a public or private college. I liked my private college experience, but I did end up paying back a lot of loans.

Guest's picture

To quote Vicki: "My experience is that kids who have learning disabilities, ADHD, Asperger's or other challenges do not do well in private schools. Most private schools look for kids who can do their work without extra motivation, basically, they look for the "good kids.""

I think this alone can reflect the so-called benefits on average as to why a private school is better- they only have kids without significant learning problems and families that are already "buying into" their education. Its only logical parents are more apt to be invested in the outcome of school when they are paying the greenback dollars.

Not that I could afford it anyways- I wouldn't choose private school for my kidlets if I had the money. My kids need to live in a real world- not a fabricated one of monied isolationists. They need to see other life situations- families not necessarily mirroring their own, how other kids with issues work through them, etc. I think my kids learn a great deal of empathy and support for their peers in the inclusive public school classrooms they are in. For example, my daughter (soon to be 9) takes great pride in helping a learning challenged friend catch up to the lesson when she gets back from speech therapy twice a week. I can see some here would say- its not her responsibility, she should be in an environment where she only has to deal with ehr own needs- but to what end? Complete self involvement? It seems we have enough of those types in the world already.

Guest's picture

I went to both public and private school and in my case I did much better in the private school but I lived in NY city where there are many many different types of private schools, there weren't choices for public schools other than specialized high schools when I was going to school.

I went to a progressive school, which was a great fit for me. It wouldn't be a great fit for every kid. I do agree that it does depend on the kid, some kids will do well where ever they go and others need a specific kind of environment to thrive. There isn't an easy answer as I don't think private school is always the answer especially if there isn't much variety, yes the academics might be better but the pace, culture etc may not be right for your child or your family.

I don't think there is a right or wrong answer. The only major drawback to public school for me is the standardized testing and not so good teachers and/or schools may focus on "passing" the test as opposed to actually teaching. For me that is a concern. However, magnet or charter schools may not have the same requirement to test every year.

Guest's picture

Public Schools are at a disadvantage not because of money - Private schools usually make due with less - but because of philosophy.

Public Schools emphasis on political correctness, diversity & making sure nothing 'damages' a child's self-esteem is misguided & leads to a de-emphasis on things academic. A simple example: whereas in most private schools (forget uniforms for a minute), if a student came in inappropriately dressed, say just wearing a baseball cap, in most cases in public school, teachers wouldn't even take note. They might even be afraid of a lawsuit. In private school, the student would be told to take it off & put it away.

When you think of all the money spent on public education (and I realize the mantra is give us more, more, more) and the poorly educated students they turn out, it's a bit mind-boggling!

Two problems: teachers' union and bloated administration. Teacher's unions understandably look out for their own interests, not the students. They wish for and really have no accountability. In most school districts, it's impossible to fire blatantly incompetent teachers. In NYC, for instance, the really bad ones they segregate to what is commonly referred to as 'rubber rooms'. There they don't teach, they don't do anything except maybe read the newspaper, and there they sit collecting salary, bene's and finally retirement!

I've often wondered why there isn't a Parent's Union looking out for theirs and their children's best interest. The PTA doesn't fulfill that role.

And, if you look at where public schools spend their dollars, too little goes to the classroom. Public schools have overdone bureaucracies with layers upon layers of un-needed personnel, paid very well thank you.

Private schools are far from perfect. I went to parochial schools through high school, and maybe it was my rebellious spirit, but I thought I had to go to college just to make up for what I missed.

For my daughter - 8 years old - we have her in a private school, a very good one. She's in second grade reading at a 6th grade or 7th grade level. No one bats an eyelash. With Math she's only a grade ahead. I pay dearly - 10K a year! And we live in a nice area where the public schools are good. I just figure that we're 'front-loading' the process, giving her a real head start and cultivating her love of learning. Maybe that will pay off, literally, when she gets to college age.


Guest's picture

I think it really depends. I've been to a mix-- public through 9th grade, private boarding school for the rest of high school, public college, private graduate school... and the only place where I really felt that I was *educated*, out of all of them, was the private boarding school. The rest were about the same quality regardless of price, probably at least partially because we lived in a good neighborhood.

Xin Lu's picture
Xin Lu

Great discussion, and I learned a lot.  When my parents brought me from China to Hawaii we couldn't afford a private school, but from the sound of it I probably would not have survived in a private school since I did not know English at that time.  In the public school I was able to be excused from English class and go to ESL class and quickly picked up English in about a year.  Then in ninth grade I was accepted to a fairly fancy private school on full scholarship, but our family moved from Hawaii to California and I didn't want to be away from my parents.  So they rented an apartment in a good school district so I could attend the school.  That seemed to be the most economic choice.  Later in my junior year of high school they purchased a home in a town that's seriously a block away from my high school, but happens to be over the county line and was valued a tens of  thousands dollars cheaper than the house next door. 
My high school had a policy that said if you moved out of the district you can still be a continuing student as long as you maintain a B average. 
 I really loved my high school and I don't think I would have fit in in that beautiful private school.  So I do appreciate going to public schools and never really experienced the other choice.  My husband said his parents let him choose his own schools and I think that is what we will let our kids do.  If they like the public school they see then that's great.

Guest's picture

So why not go there? I think that's probably the most FRUGAL option anyway. Get your kids into honors programs and it'll almost be like they're in a private school. I went to public school from K-12 and in college. Today, I'm a true blue rocket scientist. Tell ME that public education doesn't work. Go ahead.

As long as YOU value education and instill that value in your children, they will get the most out of school that they can. There is a lot there, if you look for it. The teachers aren't going to stuff knowledge into your head, but they'll present it so you can take what you want from it.

Guest's picture

I am really struggling with this decision, but we are planning to send our son to public school. Don't look at public and private as an either/or option because sometimes there are other options out there. In our school district, we have magnet schools and that is the option we have chosen. Parents are required to volunteer three hours a year (which I would have done anyway) and you can get a "private school" education on a public school dollar.

Great discussion!

Guest's picture

What about going to a Charter School?

Guest's picture

I went to both public and private school. Private through 5th grade, and public thereafter. Private schools are better for self-motivated kids that already would excel in school anyways. I found I did better in public school due to diversity, and the fact that the competition was not as fierce for grades (less stress for me!). My brother, on the other hand, went private schools all the way. It was too stressful for him. He had to repeat the 10th grade... twice.

Guest's picture

Just a thought, but have you considered the impact of an educational environment beyond a child's school years?

An advantage to at least consider: private schools, even in small towns, teach children to navigate challenging social waters with confidence. They also help students focus on admissions to top colleges where these skills become more valuable.

Public school may do the same for many, but I was a shy kid from a working class background who lucked into a (partial) scholarship at a small private school school. My prep school tuition and college loans may have been painful at the time, but now I see they bought more than just a top notch education. They effortlessly opened up a social world that made my adult career goals not just possible, but expected.

Six degrees of separation shrank to one or two. All thanks to private school.

Guest's picture

As a product of 13 years of private education, I think they're totally worth the money. Here's why:

The class sized were extremely small. I had, on average in high school, a 7 or 8 to 1 student-teacher ratio. Imagine trying to daydream or pass notes with only 7 other kids in your class. Not going to happen.

We learned how to shut the hell up. The fear of a ruler on the knuckles is enough to make you stay in your seat and pay attention to the lesson.

No bullies. Seriously. No lunch money bandits, nobody pushing you around, smacking your books to the ground. Not even any real name calling. The overweight kids got picked last for kickball, but no one ever made fun of them for it.

More parental involvement. I've seen a bunch of studies that show that the more parents are involved in their kid's education, the better they do. If a parent is dropping between 5-25k per year, you better believe they're going to make sure they're getting their money's worth.

Everyone else is right: if the kid has some kind of learning or emotional disorder that would require extra help, public schools are probably the way to go. But if the kid is at least an average student and would benefit from tougher academic competition and a stronger sense of community, then you can't beat a private education, especially in the k-8 years.

Guest's picture

The frugal side in me says homeschooling. Well not only for frugal reasons but unless we move our kids will be homeschooled.

Maggie Wells's picture


We started my son in state preschool and switched to a private school because after being constantly guilted into volunteering in the classroom, I noticed too much regarding the kind of kids my kid was going to school with. I think the day the cop's kid and the drug dealer's kid was talking about 'my dad arrested your dad' with expletives all around I decided you know, let's make it through second grade before we deal with guns and meth and the F-word used like salt and pepper, shall we? 

The switch has been great. There are 10 kids in my sons' class. The teachers are ex-public school teachers who didn't want to just record test scores anymore but wanted to actually teach and incorporate the arts. They also flat up don't tolerate that sort of playground banter and behavioral issues.

I went to both and preferred private. My husband did public and has no opinion on it but he too realized we wanted to do a bit of intervention and find a school that reflected our values better.  



Margaret Garcia-Couoh

Maggie Wells's picture


We started my son in state preschool and switched to a private school because after being constantly guilted into volunteering in the classroom, I noticed too much regarding the kind of kids my kid was going to school with. I think the day the cop's kid and the drug dealer's kid was talking about 'my dad arrested your dad' with expletives all around I decided you know, let's make it through second grade before we deal with guns and meth and the F-word used like salt and pepper, shall we? 

The switch has been great. There are 10 kids in my sons' class. The teachers are ex-public school teachers who didn't want to just record test scores anymore but wanted to actually teach and incorporate the arts. They also flat up don't tolerate that sort of playground banter and behavioral issues.

I went to both and preferred private. My husband did public and has no opinion on it but he too realized we wanted to do a bit of intervention and find a school that reflected our values better.  



Margaret Garcia-Couoh

Guest's picture

Both of my sons go to a Christian school. My wife runs the kitchen, so we get a break on tuition. As a public high school drop out, I was adamant about putting our boys in private school. My wife on the other hand did fine in public schools. I tended to be lazy, and in public school there wasn't anyone to push me. I would actually skip school to stay home and read...

I wish my parents could have afforded private school for me, it took me an extra decade to get to the point in life I would have been if I had graduated. Both of my boys are extremely athletic, and will probably want to go to public high school where they can compete in sports. The only sports their school has is soccer and basketball.

Guest's picture

I attended private school from preK to 8th grade, then I attended public school for High School. Personally I found private school to be the best education I recieved. During High School I found myself unbelieveably bored and willing to do other student's homework, which I did on many occassions. I found private school to be wonderful in the education realm but I am glad that I attended public school because of the access to many different social opportunities.

The argument about it being dependant on the child is valid, however I am grateful that my mother forced the issue with private school when I was younger and then pursued the idea of public school later on. It was great to see both sides of education and social behavior. My husband and I debate this issue as well for our future children. I personally hope to expose them to both.

In regards to "is it worth the money?" who knows. I know plenty of individuals who attended public school their entire lives and took gifted classes and excelled in High School with Advanced Placement and Independant Study. I also know as many who achieved the same after attending Private School. If anything it could be viewed as an investment. Try it out for a year and if your child doesn't like it then public school it is.
That's my opinion about it anyways.

Guest's picture
Cindy M

for 8 years, then public work-school type high school (very unique for its time, junior/senior years, you went year-round, work 2 weeks, school 2 weeks, had to keep high grade average), then on to Wright State University in Dayton, OH.

You've really hit a nerve with me with this column. I personally hate the snotty attitude most roman catholics have about their parochial school educations and how they love to badmouth the public schools when in most cases they don't have a clue what it's like to leave their little smalltown german/irish catholic neighborhoods their whole lives. I know whereof I speak; I was catholic for 30 years. Dayton, OH, is a catholic town like many in the U.S. In my 7th and 8th grade years in particular back in the late 60s and early 70s, there were almost no nuns teaching in my parochial school anyway. In my school, they were replaced by an extremely unhappy Latin American guy who hated North Americans, an ex-military officer who'd wear his uniform daily and was very much out of place, and an unhappy young black woman into black power (and all white kids sitting in front of her). So much for a catholic education. I was only 1 of 8 kids who did not attend the local catholic high school, and I COULD NOT WAIT to be away from the catholic education system and everything to do with it, and I have never regretted it. I seriously, seriously doubt that its system has changed a whit. My niece absolutely hated the abovementioned catholic high school and lasted a month there. Again, the snotty attitudes prevail. Bravo for homeschooling in particular, bravo for alternative schools and for trade-type schools.

Guest's picture

I think the conventional wisdom is that the education a the private academies is the best, then the public schools, then the parochial schools.

When I was growing up, kids got sent to private school when they were screwing up academically, and likely to not get into college. It was like the opposite of "dropping out" - like "pulled in". (The ones without money just dropped out.)

Parochial schools were for religious people and people who were at risk of having fun or something, and needed to be tamed.

My family was public school all the way, as were my sibs. I was a slacker and went to Cal like the original poster, and now read blogs at work while I try to code. My brother is now a physicist for UC. My sister is a teacher.

On the other hand, I'm Asian. If I were Latino or Black, I'd consider private school. The publics seem to allow some minorities to try less hard.

Guest's picture

... are really advantages. For instance, I opposed standardized testing—and I still do, if it's the only form of evaluation. But because of the testing, our public middle school arranged the schedule so kids would have an extra math or English class each day. And they really focus on giving the kids good study skills as well as good test-taking skills.

And having to accomodate all types of kids also worked well for my daughter. It's called "differentiated learning," and it means that instead of lecturing at kids you present the material in a variety of different ways. I pulled my younger daughter out of Catholic school in fifth grade, because she wasn't doing well, and put her in public school. I saw an immediate difference: She was happier and more enthusiastic about learning, and her grades skyrocketed. I kept my older daughter in the parochial school, where the kids sat in their seats all day and listened to the teachers lecture them, often using lesson plans that were older than the students. She hated school, and I hated the huge amounts of homework they loaded on the kids (so the parents could feel they were getting their money's worth).

Not only was the Catholic school academically inferior, it was worse in other ways as well: The teachers yelled at the kids and some were verbally abusive, they played favorites, and bullying was common and often tolerated. I really regret not moving my older daughter to public school earlier. Now she is thriving in a public high school where over 95 percent of the students go on to college, some to very good schools.

A lot does depend on the individual schools, but I really think a good public school—not even necessarily a magnet or charter school—has a lot to offer. I'd check that option out first before shelling out for private school. Save the money for a good college instead. That's what I'm doing.

Guest's picture

As personal background, I went to public school through high school, and now I'm about to graduate from a private college (Baylor) with a chemistry degree. My parents considered putting me in private school about 5th grade - we visited a couple - but I wasn't really interesteded. All the private school kids I knew were snotty. Which is what I expected when I came to Baylor, but I fell in love with the school, and the people.

I had an excellent education, but I was a pretty self motivated kid. I was reading Ten Thousand Leagues under the Sea in 2nd grade. Seriously, it was ridiculous. In high school, I had some classes with 10, 12, or even 4 people in them. But I was at the top of my class. Those class sizes were because no one else wanted to take them... :)

I find it interesting how many contradictions are in the comments. Some people say that smart, self motivated kids will do just as well in either place, some say those are the ones you want to private school. Some say that the kids who are struggling should be sent to private schools. Some say that kids with learning disabilities need the extra money at public schools, some that they wiill do better in private schools. There are no bullies at private schools, there are more than at public schools. You get the idea.

Anyway, I think I'll send my kids to public schools, unless there are problems there. Or unless they want to go to private school and/or win a scholarship.

In Texas, there's a rule that if you're in the top 10% of your high school class, you can go to any state school you want (and A&M is pretty darn selective, believe it or not). Obviously, there's some controversy over this....

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I wrote about my plans to send my sons to private school on my blog and that post got the most insulting comments I've ever received to date. I attended both private and public school when I was growing up and given where I now live, I'll be paying for private school.

My children will consistently have high-quality teachers (I know not all are amazing, but I think a greater percentage are), a challenging curriculum, and a well-maintained campus with well-equipped classrooms and facilities. While I know that they will almost inevitably be exposed to drugs, it is much less likely that they will be exposed to gangs and gang violence (I live in Los Angeles). They will be in an environment where academic achievement is respected and admission to the country's top colleges for a good portion of each graduating class is expected. A smaller student body will give my children a greater chance to form relationships with friends and faculty and to find a niche they are comfortable in and hopefully a place to excel. I know that I was better off, socially, at my private schools than at my public schools.

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I attended a private college for undergrad, and a state instution for grad school. I finished school without loans, because I was a scholarship kid. (I was probably assisted in getting that scholarship by the excellent education I received at my college-prep private high school).
Currently, I teach at a private college, similar to my undergrad. Most of our students receive a fair amount of financial aid, not all of it loans.
Don't assume you'll end up paying full price at a private institution.

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What you are forgetting is the third choice. Home education. So many people are heading in this direction now. With home school groups in just about every town in America and curriculum aids of all kinds, there really is no better way to go. Home education is the best bang for your buck. The best education without the heavy bill of a private school. Both parents can pitch in their own personal strong points in the education while enjoying the time with their child. No more trying to find time to spend with the child.
Living in the right district is no issue or even living close to a private school. The curriculum is soley your choice. The class can be no smaller. And children do not need equipment, they need books and life.
And as far as the myth of "what about social life" goes, that is a non-issue. I can tell a home educated child from a mile away by the interaction they are able to have with adults. How many governement-educated children really, and I mean really, have conversations with adults. Shouldn't that be what you are preparing your children for is life in the adult world.
Not that I havent seen many fine adults come from the government and private sectors of education. But home is really where education was meant to happen.
One of the best philosophies of education I have seen is of Charlotte Mason. Check out ... www.ambleside

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In response to the poster above about home schooling...

I'm ALL for choice on all levels but let's stop painting home schooling as the be all end all for everyone.
I know many women who go this homeschool route. Some are great - they've made a choice based on their child's needs or their religious preferences. Hats off to them who are doing it the right way.

You've never seen a public school kid who can talk to adults? Really? My public school educated kid can talk to adults with ease. But she can also talk to children her age.

I can tell a home schooled kid a mile away too. They are often routinely the kids who struggle in social settings with peers. I watch them unable to handle our neighborhood swim team b/c they can't relate to kids in their age group, unable to play structured games in the cul de sac we live on. They have less friends, less of a gasp on modern culture. Maybe you think all of that is wonderful but the real world is made up of lots of kinds of people. If you don't allow your child safe, healthy expose to the rest of the world, you overload them when they are unleashed on it.

Again many parents are doing an excellent but some of them aren't. Classic example - my friend C barely got through HS and is home schooling her son now. She has no training, doesn't think she needs any and what she calls an education is basically her normal day.

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I attended parochial schools K-12. In 8th grade at the local Catholic school, I decided not to be confirmed and that I vehemently disagree with much of the religious doctrine. So, I resented attending 4 more years of religion class. I also wished for more fun electives, and begged to go to public school so I could take shop class or auto repair alongside my AP courses.

I didn't realize what a tremendous gift my parents had given me until I went to a public college. I loved the warm and engaging people I met at my university, but was extremely disappointed in the academic level of my peers. I had been writing 6+ page papers as a HS freshman, and up to 20 pages as a senior in AP English. In my college freshman Honors English course, we were challenged to write less than half what I had done in HS. The grammar and diction in the papers I peer-edited were substandard; I, in turn, gained little from my peer editors. In my non-Honors courses, some of my classmates wrote so poorly that I wondered how they were ever admitted to college! It was hard to find the push I needed to really develop further in college, when the starting point for the class was much lower than my HS courses were.

I know I'm an academic elitist, and most people would shame me for such behavior. I feel compassion for bright students who care but don't have access to better teachers. However, it only makes sense to compete with those at or near your own level. Few would fault a pro athlete for declining to play in a pick-up game. (FWIW, I'm a crappy athlete)

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My husband and I are desperately trying to make the best decision possible for our two children in middle school. We both went to public schools all the way through with with one exception. I attended an all women catholic college for 2 years. Our public education was terrible. Including graduate school and law school, I did my absolute best work ever during the 2 years in private college.

Both my children have been in private school all the way through 6th/7th grade. We tried our local public school for my daughters' 1st grade and knew it wouldn't challenge her enough. We have 2 gifted kids, one with a bit of ADD. We have found private school to be worth it for the class size, quality teachers and curriculum up until now. Lately we've been asking ourselves whether the benefits are worth the lack of economic diversity, (there is a great amount of racial diversity), the 25K(each) investment, and the commute. We are also more concerned about the fish in a fish pond problem but we can't seem to find a lot of data to show whether there is a benefit either way. We know they will need to stand out but it seems like they will need that in private school even more so. If I were in college admissions, I would expect a lot more of a kid with the silver spoon and no real life struggles. But I'm not sure if this really plays out in reality. And we actually want our kids to struggle and come to appreciate the wide variety of people and life circumstances they will encounter with a public education. We're just concerned about the actual academic education!

We have been leaning toward public for high school and after reading these comments I am feeling even more confident about public. This is based on the content but surprisingly it's also because of the quality of writing coming from people advocating public over private.

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My parents put me through a Christian school K-4, a different Christian school 5-8, then (very good) public highschool, then a private university.

I had friends who "did school" all over the spectrum (Christian private, secular private, parochial, public, and homeschooling), and I think it gave me a good perspective on the way ALL of these methods can shine... or fail (yes, even homeschooling).

In the end, it depends on the parents, the child, the environment, and the child's phase in life. There is no one-size-fits-all solution; the most important thing is to be involved in your kids' schooling and be open to change if things aren't working.

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I went to a great public school system and we live now in a great area so we are content with public schools but we have looked around for private ones.

However one reason we stay with public schools is the added support for children who learn differently or slower. Our daughter has an IQ on the high side of normal but has a what they call a 'silent learning disability' because it doesn't show up on any one testing tool but more of a collectively slow executive processing problems. Which is just gibberish for she's bright but just needs to go over things more to really learn them and have some extra time in testing to show what she really knows.

Private schools can offer small classes but they routinely do not offer extra support in terms of helping kids like mine. In a public school, she gets accommodations and support that have her on the honor roll. We've looked at private schools and they all are very clear that they keep children on pace more and it is harder for them to fall behind with the extra attention but if it is a learning issue, they are really out of luck.

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I have to agree with the poster above. I know a few families that homeschool. One is a crazy rightwing witch. Yes, there are plenty of decent Republicans. But this one is one of those nutty racist flat earth types who practically spits with rage whenever she opens her mouth. It would be nice for children to be raised in an environment that's a little less, uh, angry. It might do her kids good to hear that somebody else could actually feel differently than Mother. I'm sure the kids look cute arguing for the Gold Standard and the flat tax, but they are like little pissed off robots.

Another is a sweet but wifty liberal mom. She would never pressure her precious snowflakes to do anything--she "unschools" them. The kids are delightful and charming. The teenage boy loves woodworking, which he basically figured out for himself. Reading, however, he has not figured out. At age 15. He probably has a learning disability. But there was never a reading expert who observed him and helped to correct him at a time of life when his young brain was being formed. But now, it could be too late. And even if it isn't, there's nothing going on in that home that would encourage him to take up an activity that requires self-discipline like learning how to read.

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I am a public school teacher, and I would probably put my kids in private school. I do feel the teachers in public schools are generally better. They are required to complete more education and are provided with (almost too much) extra staff development. However, the behavior of the students is horrible. There is a lack of respect for the teachers, the school, and for education in general. And since children are required by law to attend school, there is little that can be done about it. Students are given detentions. They don't attend. Then they are assigned a Saturday School. They don't attend. It would be easy to say, well go to the next step and suspend the students, and then if that doesn't work expel them. But there are so many students that don't follow the consequences, that it is impossible to do this. As a parent, I would be more worried that my kids are around that kind of attitude so much of the day.
Plus, students simply don't do the work. I will give an assignment and most of the time over half of the class won't complete it. Forget about homework. It's impossible to have class discussions about anything because only three or four students will have know what is going on. I give failing grades, but they don't care. And neither do their parents. I can't get some of these parents on the phone to save my life! Or I call to tell them about their child's failing grade and they say, "Okay, thank you. I will talk to him/her," but nothing ever changes. When I hear the media talking about our failing schools, I want to scream! It's the parents of these kids who are failing. I'm doing my job as best I can. I can't physically make a child read or write.
Private schools have the option of booting the kids who do nothing. And parents have an extra incentive to make sure their child is doing the work because they are paying for it. I think public schools should fine parents for their children's poor behavior and lack of effort. Our tax dollars pay for the desk, books, and supplies these student are wasting. Let the parents pay for it if all it is is childcare.

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Amen, sister! You really know what is going on! Parents who sit back and do nothing are the cause of failing public schools. Teachers is public are generally good. They really do care, but you can't find the overwhelming odds that some kids face at home. You can take the student to the water, but you can't make them drink.

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Lisa Dale

Ok, see your point, but..... since I've got children ranging from 3 to 24, I feel like I have some experience in this issue. For Nashville, TN the choice is ambiguous at best. We have some great private schools, and then there are some really bad ones as of late. The graduates of one private school here score poorly compared to public schools in a nearby county. And teaching techniques have evolved greatly in the last 18 years that I have physically participated. Furthermore, some private schools weed out illegal immigrants just because of accessibility alone, so there is less drag on the over all performance of that school. So, bottom line is where do you live? Sounds like you need to live in a rich area, like Brentwood, and attend public school with every other child (that can afford to live there.)

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I have been solely educated by public schools and I feel that I have a major disadvantage as compared to those who were educated in the private school system. For one, I don't earn all that much money relative to my great number of years of schooling and there has been no networking for me despite this being the way most jobs are gotten these days. Plus, public schools are just like the public sector--let's see how cheaply we can do everything! If you want a chance at a decent existence and some luxuries in life, go for private schooling. If you want to attend lower class schools without a hint of opulence, no one to network with, and a lower middle class existence, do what I did. Trust me!

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Private schools have no accountability for doing the "right" things. When you land in a corrupt private school with the best intentions for your child and find out they will only promote their high donating kiss ass families you will suffer dearly. Your might have top students even in a private environment and your child may still be treated at the lowest levels. Best to take a for sure risk our Public school system. By the way Public schools have much more to offer for a well rounded student anyway.

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aurelio santiago

in puerto rico 1 out of 7 students goes to private schools.

the reasons: religious education, security, better performance on the College Board Test than their public counterparts, bilingual education, less political intermission, parents participation is more promoted.

questions that parents should ask themselves: how did the state (government) got the education control out of the hands of the family and what does it use that control for?

the govt entity sacred duty regarding education should be to be vigilant that all children be educated according to an appropriate flexible curriculum approved by law but, should not impose its monopolistic system based on economic limitations. for the contrary, it should promote, via vouchers or tax credits, the parents decision on that, and also having some good public schools available as part of the education offers to the citizens.

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I have been reading the post and find it interesting that security in the public schools were not mentioned. I have a 5 year old that is in private K and will be going to private school in Sept. I live in NJ and the public school i am zoned to is about 100 years old and has below state test scores. I was willing to at least give the school a try and go in and look around since the private school we are sending our daughter to is very expensive 21k. When i walked into the public school at 9:00 a young girl about 10 was at the door and told me where the main office was. There were kids sitting on the stairs and walking around the hallways. The main office was cluttered with piles of papers and very disorganized. I walked out and decided right there i was not sending my daughter there. She is very bright and has been reading since 18 months. She needed a school that would challenge her. I am not Catholic,but my husband and I registered her in the local Catholic school just in case she didn't get into P school. We felt secure leaving her there since the doors are kept locked and the staff is on top of the students. I don't know if she would have gotten a better education in public or Catholic school but we just learned she was excepted in the private school we wanted. For 21k a year she will get a 7:1 teacher ratio, teachers with masters and special certifications in their fields. The school is set up like a college.i had my doubts sending her to such an expensive school, but my peace of mind that she will be in a safe place with kids who are academically on or close to her level is what i needed. Children who are gifted have no resources in the public schools because they usually are only gifted in a few areas and may lag behind in others. They are special needs children too with no place to go, but private school. I don't know how this will work out,but i feel good that i am giving my daughter the best environment for her learning potential that i can. My husband and i were planning to move, but with the housing market the way it is we will be here for awhile and will have to pay for private school. We will do our homework when moving and try to move to an area with better public schools to meet our daughter's needs. I do feel it is important to have children mix wtih others who may not be as advanced as they are because they learn from each other, but it has to be with a good teacher who knows how to handle a class like that. I went to public school in the south bronx and had a terrible education and as a result had a hard time with simple things like spelling and grammar in my adult years. The early years of education are the foundation in which children learn how to process information and ideas. Without it they are lost later. If i have to pay for a solid elementary school education now, i know it will benefit her later on even if she goes to public school.

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Andrew M.

I have been doing extensive research on this, and I am thrilled to have stumbled upon this forum.

I went to Catholic/private lower/middle/high school and public college. The difference was mind-blowing for me. I have a son now so I'm concerned with this debate now more than ever.

I'm leaning heavily toward a private/independent institution, at least through lower and middle school.

I just don't think you can put a price on the networking and exposure aspects that a private school can offer. My wife is a NYC public school teacher and she sees what normally goes on in your run-of-the-mill NYC public school. The very best kids usually end up bored, the struggling kids get left behind, and the middle of the pack kids just get by.

One thing that concerns me is the cost. While I find the tuition to be really pricey, what bothers me more is that they just set their prices based upon WHAT? The fact that rival schools charge that much? Their operating costs? Their locations? Their payroll? How can every school in Manhattan and Brooklyn be $28,000-$32,000? I feel that they just make their costs the same as the other schools, just so they aren't perceived as being cheap or less prestigious, not because it actually costs that student that much for the education.

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I went to public school from kindergarten-7th grade. Then because I had ADHD my parents were able to let me go to private school for free because of a grant. I didn't like it, but that's because back then I didn't like school period and I wasn't a christian. I did a little more research into the differences between public and private schools and found out some interesting facts. I even taught at a private school once (it was a baptist one though...) Public schools are terrible because of gangs, drugs, there's a lot of bad kids that go there and do bad things. I would not want my child growing up to be a hoodlum with a baby at sixteen which is why I would not expose my child to that kind of chaos and depravity. Plus public school classes are much too large and a child can't get the individual attention that they need.

Not in the least way do I take any sort of prejudice against Christians, but I have found that christian private schools aren't much better than public schools. In a sense it's as though they "zap" the child's creativity by binding them to an impossibly strict set of rules. And I think it's better to not force a religion on a child as they will grow up to dislike it, in most cases.

The best schools I have found are non-religious based private schools. They strive for their students to receive the best academic standards, classes are small, they aren't around so much drugs and violence like the public schools.

I am certainly not wealthy, but I believe that private school is worth every penny. After all, we should all strive for better education for ourselves and our children.

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We tried all three options; private, public and homeschool. Homeschool wins hands down. Flexible, as expensive or inexpensive as you want it to be, total freedom to pursue different methods and special interests, week long field trips/vacations in the uncrowded seasons, and a great community of like minded people to share expertise and equipment. Read "How to Home School" by Gayle Graham or "The Right Choice" by Chris Klicka before dismissing this as an option.

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Went to public school in San Francisco from K-8th grade. The middle school I attended was a JOKE. I started hanging around with the wrong crowd, cutting classes and failing all my classes. My parents didn't even find out I was cutting classes until half the school year was over. When they found out they enrolled me in a private catholic school, which I attended from 9th to 12th grade. The experience changed my life and I vowed that if I ever had children I would NEVER send them to public school. I agree with comment from the public school teacher that the majority of kids in public school (especially in urban communities such as SF) are unruly and disrespectful. I now have 3 children ages 10 to 19. They are all in private school from the time they were in kinder. Yes, it is expensive, especially in SF, but I consider it an investment in their future. The teahcers from private school don't take crap from the kids. I agree with another parent who commented that there were no bullies, no fighting, no name calling or teasing. Of course there's a small number of rebellious students, but they are usually put in their place fast. Disrespect is never tolerated in private school. The consequences for bad behavior or poor academics - you get kicked out. There's no time for nonsense in private school. Unlike public school, where kids are talking back to teachers or behaving badly. Kids who act up in private school get expelled and get thrown into public school.
I disagree with one parent who thinks that private school kids are not living in the "real world" because they are not dealing with real life issues. The high school my kids attend has a 100 hour committment from each student that requires them to do volunteer work directly related to the Sick, aged, homeless and disabled. My oldest son, even after he graduated, volunteers at the homeless shelter and food banks. Public schools don't have this requirement and alot of kids never even exposed to that experience.
I'm not saying that all public schools are bad, but in SF, the public school system is disappointing. My son's friend in 8th grade who attended private school and barely passed with a D average - now goes to the local public high school and now takes honors English class. What does that tell you about the school system.
I would never trust my kids education to the public school system in SF. My oldest son begged us to send him to public school in 9th grade, we flat out refused and told him it was for his own good and he'd thank us later. He graduated last year and did thank us for it. He now attended a small private university.
Kids that attend private school come out to be well rounded, confident, repectful and behaved kids. I like that fact that private school impose a LOT of rules and expectations on kids.

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I realize I'm a johnny-come-two-years-late to this discussion, but I think the points raised are even more relevant today than they were two years ago. Interestingly enough, our current economic downturn has made private schools an attractive option for a lot of families. State budget-tightening means that public schools are cutting back even more on what they offer. Too often this results in an increase in class size and reduction of classes, subjects and services. Many parents - who previously may have never even considered private education - are investigating whether private schools could work for their families because they are not willing to compromise their child's education and future.

Of course, the economic downturn has also meant that affording a private school education is not as easy as it once was for many families. Some are looking for increased financial aid (which many schools have beefed up in response to the economy), tuition assistance from grandparents, and/or cutting back on other areas of their household budget to be able to keep their children in private schools.

So my question is - What do you think? Does the economic downturn and the crisis in our public schools make private schools a more attractive option for families?

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i'm looking into boarding schools as a possible last 2 years of high school for me, and most everything i've read seems to me like its worth it. all my life up to 10th grade i've been in the public system...and sadly im just not challenged. it really bothers me that i have to, im not sure how to say this, uhm, tone down my learing attitude? well my usual class size can range from 20-30 kids per class and im not with equal minded kids who WANT to learn. I've brought it up to my parents before but they say it isnt worth the cost to them. i have a sizable dowry to pay for my education, but my parents dont want to spend it on boarding school, they say the payoff isnt worth it. the way i see it though is, if i can get financial aid for the boarding school than i should have at least a little left, and with the experience yadda yadda knowledge, etc i expect to get at a boarding school than that should lend me to a better scholarship than if i just went public the whole way and not have too many loans to worry about in the least thats what i hope will happen. i know that simply attending some prestigous school wont gurantee me a free ride, but i think its worth the risk. my parents are, ironically enough, pressuring me to pursue the arts, which doesnt pay very well in my eyes, and i want to be more than just some no name penniless artist working painting to painting. it really is ironic. as a student wanting to attend a private boarding school do you all have any ideas to really getting my parents to understand why i want to do this?

although my older brother got kicked out of a local private school, so they may have more convictions than the average parent.....

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Wow! What a great forum! I think as moms we are constantly searching for the best for our children. A lot of people associate better with money. Unfortunately it is impossible to compare public to private, because there are so many different types of private and public schools. I attended parochial schools from 1st to 12th grade. It was very much a "bubble", but I'd say it was a good experience in grammar school, not necessarily in high school though. My father had 8 children, six of whom were girls, so Catholic schools were the only option in his eyes. I will say that we went to the "lower income" catholic school, not the elite schools, so there was never any "holier than though" attitude from students. We were taught social justice and became one big family in grade school.
In high school I was envious of a few friends who left the Catholic school to attend charter high schools. There was so much more opportunity at some of the public high schools in the arts, drama, etc. I feel like I missed out on a lot due to lack of programs at my catholic high school.

My eldest son is attending his 4th year in public school in the fall. It is so close to home that we walk to school. It is very easy for me to be involved due to proximity.

The biggest thing to remember is that we as parents can enrich our children in so many ways. The money that we save on private schooling goes to college funds, music lessons, outside sports leagues, etc. etc.
I will say this though, when looking for schools, go backward. Pick the high school first, then find the path to get them there. Sounds odd but I've slowly discovered this in the past few years.
Good Luck!

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Private School Student

I am from Australia and I am currently a private school student.

In Australia - private schools are ****. I am a boarder as well, so my parents pay like $40,000+ per year and I am regretting the education here now. I used to enjoy the extra co-curricular, but now as I approach my university-entrance exams, I find private schools much worse academically than the selective schools.

If I had to re-do, I would only enter private schools on the basis of scholarships or for other merits than academic.

I would also not choose Australia to be a boarder. I'd probably go to the US or UK. Worse comes to worse, an international school.

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Private School Student

Edit: Sorry, I forgot to add that in a private school, we are academically better than a lot of other public schools but not so much that (in Australia) it would be easy to get into an Ivy League, Oxford or Cambridge, or to do Law or Med at USyd or UNSW or ANU. The academically "better" performance is limited to some students - as I'm sure it'd be the same in a public school.

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Hi this is a great forum and I wanted to add some of my thoughts on issues that may not have been touched upon.
My background: I went to a Catholic school K-8 and then a public HS even though I had wanted to go to a Catholic HS. My parents, solidly working class with 5 kids said that they had specifically moved to that neighborhood on Long Island because of the public school system. I got a fantastic education from K-8 and did they drill us on correct grammar! I got a wonderful education in HS with many teachers caring about me and my future. Some crucial points though: my HS had only 850 children. I graduated number 10 without much effort, and playing 2 sports a year. Got into an Ivy League college.
Now we have four kids, one of whom has ADHD, and we are trying to make the decision about whether or not to invest in private HS for them, which, all in , would cost us close to 200k for all of them. We will certainly have to be very frugal to make this work. Not to mention having very little saved for their college.
The public school here is 'good' but huge with 2000 kids. This concerns me. How could a teacher possibly care about my child and his future? How could they have the time?
According to my daughter, who attends the public secondary school that feeds into the public HS, there is a lot of disrespect toward teachers, and a lot of teachers who won't (can't?) stop such behavior. She says she often does the work on her own because the class is disruptive. She is in honors classes. She often comes home and looks on google to understand an algebra concept and I ask her, "can't you stay after class and ask the teacher to explain it more?" and her reply is, "we are not allowed, there is only enough time to get to your next class."
She'll do fine because she is self-motivated, but she won't have what I had in my public HS unless we pay for private HS.
People say it is important for children to not be put under a bell jar or in a rarefied atmosphere during school-that there are all types out there in the world and they had better get used to that. While I agree with that in theory, in reality, while my boys are in their formative and turbulent high school years, I would much prefer that they be in an orderly school with discipline where learning is respected and not ridiculed as uncool.
So I think it the decision really depends more on the size of the class and the discipline in the school more so than whether it is private or public.

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Your husband might be right about some public schools not having labs as nice as those in private schools, but I don't think that's true of public schools in Northern Virginia! Our two children were lucky enough to have excellent teachers and wonderful facilities (including excellent science labs) throughout their 13 years of public education. In fact my son had 14 years of public education, because he had a disability that qualified him for special ed preschool. He also had speech therapy, physical therapy or an adapted PE curriculum, and either a classroom aide or a personal assistant from preschool through the middle of tenth grade! No private school we visited (and we checked out several) could offer that level of support. Both of my children also attended public universities -- the University of Virginia in my daughter's case, the University of Maryland College Park in my son's. My daughter liked UVA so much that she returned and earned her law degree there! Neither one of them got "lost in the shuffle."

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You went to UC Berkeley from public school... you got a good education and paid half or even a third of what your husband paid. Private schools are not worth it.

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I am currently a Senior in a Catholic High School...but went to public school every year up until 9th grade. In my experience the public schoolwork seemed to be much harder than the catholic/private school. I also only get maybe 15min to about an hour or so MOST nights, while my public school friends end up having maybe one hour to three hours.

I understand it would be different for every area, but in my area on Long Island the private school seems to be worth the investment. This is coming from a current student who for 9th grade hated the idea of a catholic/private university because it really wasn't worth the tuition (I mostly hated the uniform and am not very religious but $ was the only mature reason I could come up with haha).

I felt like my school had much better funding overall for programs, classes, and nearly everything else. My school is fairly big on sports and theatre too, so nearly every area a child would be interested would be covered. My friends who didn't go to my school often complained about how something wasn't funded properly, or that the school needed to get something better than whatever it had.

While funding and stuff like that kind of made the tuition kind of acceptable for me after 9th grade, what I found the best reason for me to go to Catholic High Schools was the environment (again, this is specific to my school most likely). While in my public school district we did have many talented students, their was a fairly large population of students who seemed like they were in school only because it was required, and didn't care about anything that had to do with school. They had little to no plans for college, and many sat down to take the SAT (Public HS was the test center nearest to me and my HS wasn't one) but I could see that they didn't care. Many simply stared out the window.

In my Catholic HS, it seemed like the student population was mostly the upper tier athletes, academically gifted students, or great artists and singers. Most of my friends in the football and basketball teams were very smart, and managed to maintain overall averages of over 90, with at least five of the athletes having maybe 95+. I say this only because I used to think that athletes were really jocks who weren't the brightest and got by on their athleticism.

Of course not everybody was a shining star, but there must have been a very little amount of students who seemed borderline pass/fail. I would maybe hear mention of a troublesome kid once or twice a year, and everybody was fairly focused on their studies or the programs they were involved in. Guidance counselors were extremely helpful (In my cousins public HS in NJ, his GC barely helped with the little things, so my GC ended up giving me info I passed on to him), colleges were more inclined to come to our school and meet with the students and offer help if we had/have any questions. We had a great library and a whole wired/connected computer system schoolwide (it sound impressive but some of the features the school had were fairly amazing and extremely useful...these were features I knew the public HS didn't have.)

I know I sound extremely biased by only listing the pros for a Private and the cons for a Public, but I really wrote this for reasons to go to Private over Public. I'm sure not every, not even a majority, of public schools are bad...hell, my public school district is considered a good school district, and I'm sure not every Private school would give you the same experience I had, but you should give them both a try.

In the Private school I had a better friends circle I guess, and the fact that classmates weren't made up of students who seemed like complete idiots kind of brushed off good habits for me. Students worked hard in school, and had priorities in order. Students also seemed much nicer from my perspective, although in public school I never had a problem of not getting along with anyone, but I would see my friends being mean to other kids, or having unofficial gangs in a way. In the Catholic school though even the "gangsters", jocks, theater, geeks, emo kids were nice to each other. You could walk up to a seemingly stupid football player and have an intelligent conversation, and nerds could talk to the most beautiful girl in school and become friends easily. People weren't discriminated against and were generally more accepting.

I still hate the uniforms (Sr. sweaters are dope though), and some of the rules in the Catholic high school are very stupid (facial hair is apparently offensive...) but all in all I do think it was worth it. I would say even if your school district is average (not rundown and crime-filled but not great either) (definition redundant I know) I would at least look into private/catholic high schools in your area to see how much of an improvement they are.

In terms of private/public university I don't know how much it would matter, but I am still appying to colleges (both public and private). I'm not choosing a college on whether or not it is private or not, but private colleges do seem much more expensive. Public Universities are still great, and in many respects better than private colleges. SUNY and CUNY schools are amazing and incredibly cheap. In California the UC schools like UCLA and the like are amazing as well. I'm sure others are as well but those were the main colleges I looked into, along with a couple private schools.

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I know this is an old post but I figured as a current senior college student, I can give my take.

It all depends on where you grew up. I grew up in a really small farming community and there was only one high school. The closest private high school was about 30 minutes away and my parents were not going to drive me every morning.

My high school was horrible. At the time I didn't think about it, but it was. The average ACT score was 20.6 for my class and I had a 31. I was so bored at that school, but it did get a little better when I took night classes at the local community college.

I am currently going to a private college where the work is really hard ( they are ranked in the top 30 in the USA). When I stepped foot into my first chemistry lab, it was like I was in another world!!! I had no idea what was going on. And my first chemistry lab report was one of the hardest assignments of my life. But i was in the minority. I remember asking my roommate if I could see his lab report, and he banged out 9 pages in one day! I was shocked! He told me that he already did it in high school and it was very easy for him. I would say about 80% of students didn't struggle.

Yes, eventually, I caught up to speed but there are just fundamentals that other students knew that I was never taught in high school. I tell my parents to have my younger brother who is currently in high school, to take summer classes at a nearby college.

On the other hand, my girlfriend grew up in a big city. She went to a public high school that was ranked in the top ten in the state. Then she moved and her last two years was at a private school. Last summer, I was helping her packed up her stuff when I saw several notebooks. I opened them up and saw all they were chemistry lab notes from her private high school. They were exactly the same format and depth as intro college chemistry! She told me her teacher in high school used to be a professor and that a lot of the teachers there have masters or phd's.

So if you value your kids education and future, try to have them go to a really good public school in the area. If that isn't possible, then look into a private school. If that isn't possible, a very cheap way would be to have them audit a course over the summer at a nearby college. (Auditing means you are taking the class and do not receive a grade or credits! thus making it very cheap!!) The point is to just be in that environment and caliber of teaching

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Student from both worlds

From my experience with switching from public to private to public (as I attended private only for a few years in high school), not all schools are created equal. Not that my local public school was bad (considering that I lived in Bloomfield Hills, MI... a pretty rich area in these parts), but the nearby private school I attended was light-years ahead. Heck, I was reading Milton in my Sophomore year in private high school.
Let's just say that I had difficulties switching from a 4.0+ GPA cocky public school student (sleeping well at nights), to a 2.8 private "miserable coffee-drinking awake-till-3AM" student. I had many other friends who made the transition, and for all of us, it was a very humbling experience.
Is Private better than Public? Not sure, as those are pretty broad terms. But, Ill tell you... nothing beats a top private school education in terms of kicking your a@@ every night, especially if you want your kids to be spending school breaks reading from the likes of Homer, Beckett and Chaucer. Is that type of education right for every student? Probably not. Will it transform your kid into a successful well-adjusted human being? Not sure.
But I highly doubt that any public school can match the top private schools in terms of ramming education in one's noodle. Yes, your grey cells will get plenty of exercise.