Public vs. Private School: What’s Better?

One of my closest friends is in a very tough position. She can no longer afford the private school her daughter attends but is determined to make sure that her daughter has the best, most well-rounded, and overall positive school experience possible. Because of her shrinking budget, she’s worried that the level of education her daughter is currently receiving is at risk. I’m not nearly as worried about her daughter’s future in the public school system — and here’s why:

I attended private school until about 3rd grade. I had already learned to read in kindergarten and, because I was an only child and had nothing better to do, I completed my math and reading workbooks at home. The private school I attended had little choice but to skip me up a grade. I was admitted into the highly gifted magnet program in the Los Angeles public school system by the 5th grade and remained in magnet programs through high school. Upon graduation at the age of 16, I had my choice of universities and ultimately chose to stay close to home (UCLA).

I’ve never felt slighted by my public school experience. In fact, I was thankful for the friendships I formed with children of very diverse backgrounds and felt extremely well prepared for college. I was admitted to every school I applied to and was offered several scholarships. Was I lucky? Or is public school not as inferior as it is sometimes perceived?

Technically, I can afford private school for my daughter but have not found a compelling reason for the expense at her age. She is thriving at her current public school but is also asking for more of a challenge academically. I have considered private school for her junior high and high school years in the event that the magnet program doesn’t work out. I do have my reservations about the potential lack of racial, socio-economic, and religious diversity represented in private school classrooms, so I will have to make this choice carefully as this is very important to me.

There are numerous studies that demonstrate that there is no appreciable difference in admission to top universities of students from private vs. public schools. There is also little doubt that in certain areas the public school system leaves much to be desired. Everyparent wants the best education available for their child and, for some children, a better education is the ticket to a brighter future than their parents ever had. In today’s financial crunch, we all must ask ourselves…

Is private school worth it? If so, at what age? And why?

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