Let’s start with the fact that I am the product of Public School education. As an educator, I have had the pleasure of working in charter schools for 3 years and in public school (traditional and alternative) for 1 year. I have not worked in private school – not by choice but because they never hired me. I sent out my resume and only got a bite back once but even then, it did not get far. I will try my absolute best to not be biased by sharing the facts alongside my experience as a student and teacher in different settings.
Now that we got that out the way, we need to create some working definitions.
Public School: a tuition-FREE school that is publicly funded and operated by a local school district and state that is open to any student that lives within that school’s zone
Charter School: a tuition-FREE school that is publicly funded but independently operated by non-profit and/or for-profit organizations that is open to any student
Private School: a tuition-based school that is privately funded and privately owned that is open to any student (family) that can afford to PAY to attend
As stated early, I am a Public School shawty! That means the woman I am today was shaped by my K-12 experience at Fulford Elementary School, Henry D. Perry Middle School, John F. Kennedy Middle School, and North Miami Beach Senior High School. Never once did I step foot in private school – we could not afford it – and to be honest, I never heard of the term “charter school” until I became a teacher.
The concept of charter schools in America just surfaced in 1991 with Minnesota being the first state to pass a charter school law (Ballotpedia, 2018). That same law was not passed in Florida until July 1996 and I was preparing to turn 6 years old that August with immigrant parents who knew nothing about that. So I had “no choice” but to go to public school.
Private schools date back to the early 1600s and were religion based – making them small and not open to everyone. The boys learned core subjects like reading, math, and science while girls learned domestic arts like how to cook and clean. Hence why many private schools today – including post-secondary schools – were founded on religious principles.
Now, I just want to highlight that this post is geared towards parents who want to do the best by their children and are slightly confused with where they should send their kids to get a good education. Hopefully this break down will give you better insight on your options to help you make the best decision for you and your children.
- Tuition-FREE: you do not have to pay for your child to attend; you must live within the zone of that school in order for your child to attend; depending on where they live in that zone, may be eligible to ride the school bus
- Teachers: Majority have some level of experience in education because districts want certified experienced teachers (I used the experience I got from the charter school to help me get a job in public schools)
- Class Size: Grades K-3 (18 students) Grades 4-8 (22 students) Grades 9-12 (25 students) (FLDOE, n.d.)
- State Testing: required at every grade level starting 3rd grade
- Academic Resources: available for every type of student with staff on hand to assist (ex: Social Worker, Speech Pathologist, ESE Specialist, ESOL/ELL Specialist, Psychologist, Counselor, Math Coaches, Literacy Coaches, etc)
- Extracurricular Activities: wide variety
- Tuition-FREE: you do not have to pay for your child to attend but you are required to complete “volunteer hours” or make a “donation” equivalent to the volunteer hours for your child to maintain enrollment; there are no school zones so you can live in one county and go to school in another as long as you have your own transportation (there are no school buses)
- Teachers: majority are first time teachers who do not have their certification yet (this was me – I was not a certified teacher when I started)
- Class Size: supposed to be the same as public school but these classes are typically pushing over 30 students in Middle/High School with about 20 students in Elementary School since they are independently operate – meaning they have the authority over how many kids they want to put in a class
- State Testing: required at every grade level starting 3rd grade
- Academic Resources: limited availability due to lack of certified staff
- Extracurricular Activities: limited amount due to limited staff (every sport/activity must be sponsored by a teacher/faculty/staff)
- Tuition-BASED: you have to pay for your child to attend but the cost typically includes everything your child would need from books, technology, uniform, lunch, activities; be mindful that many schools offer financial assistance and/or scholarships to those in need; you can apply and be denied (it is the school’s choice who they let in); can go wherever you want as long as you have your own transportation
- Teachers: many are not certified because it is not required since the school can make its own rules – its’ private; however, some schools try to have people with experience in education; those schools are usually bigger and cost a hefty penny
- Class Size: varies but typically lower than public and charter so opportunities for more one-on-one support; not many people choose the private route due to cost so class sizes are pretty small
- State Testing: not required
- Academic Resources: typically limited availability due to lack of certified staff; however, this is based on the size of the private school – bigger schools have more money to hire certified staff
- Extracurricular Activities: typically small amount due to small number of students but as stated before, bigger schools tend to have more money to find more activities
Parents, I hope this provides you some clarity on the difference between these three types of learning environment. When making your final decision, think about how times were when you went to school and then think about how things are now. Think about the resources you had or did not have that helped you succeed or be less successful. Think about the needs of your child and what will work best with your family. There are some people who have one child in private school and one in charter school for different reasons and that works for that family. Lets say the public school that your child is zoned for is in a bad neighborhood and you do not feel comfortable sending your child there so you decide to send them to a charter school, that is okay. Lets say your child works best in small groups so you put them in a small private school for that intensive support, that is okay too. I cannot stress this enough but at the end of the day, do what works best for you and your family and do your research. Do not stop here at this post. This post should propel you to go find out more information.
I know everyone who is reading this that is not a parent may feel “that’s just in Florida” or “she doesn’t know what she is talking about” and that is fine. You are entitled to your own opinion just like I am. This is short reflection of the facts based off research and my experience as well as my colleagues. I will have a Part II to this topic geared towards the teacher side of these types of schools.
For those in South Florida, be on the lookout for an event that discusses this further.
-signing out, LOLA the manager
Ballotpedia. (2018). Charter schools in Florida. Retrieved from https://ballotpedia.org/Charter_schools_in_Florida
FLDOE. (n.d.). Class Size. Retrieved from http://www.fldoe.org/finance/budget/class-size/