Navigating the U.S. school system is no easy task, and it poses a special challenge for those registering students for school for the first time. Your local school district can provide a wealth of helpful information and should be one of your first stops when beginning the process. CORE Languages offers destination services designed to help your family learn, adapt, and make informed decisions like those between types of schools. To help you get started, here are some of the most important things you need to know about public schools and private schools in the U.S. to help you choose the best fit for your family:
Your local public school is the one closest to your home. Public schools are funded by the state and by the property taxes that you and other residents of the area pay. Unless you are sending your children to private school, or have been granted a state exception, your children must attend the designated public school for your address. Bus transportation to and from school is usually provided free of charge for public school students—your local district can provide you with details on schedules and pick-up and drop-off locations if busing is available.
You may also choose to send your children to private schools, which are run by organizations or religious denominations rather than by the state. Since private schools are not funded by taxes, they charge tuition, with prices ranging anywhere from $3,000 to $30,000 or more for each student per year. Private schools also often have specific admissions processes, sometimes including testing prior to entry. Bus transportation is generally not provided, though some schools do offer it for an additional cost—the private school you’re considering will be able to inform you if this is the case.
A few key differences of public vs. private schools:
- Private school classes are usually smaller than those in public schools.
- Private schools are not required to offer English language classes for students whose first language is not English, while public schools are mandated to make English language classes and related learning resources available.
- Private schools vary in the number of grade levels of students they teach. They may offer schooling all the way from preschool through high school, or only for the preschool, elementary school, or high school levels.
- Beyond annual tuition, additional fees often apply at private schools, including: cost of uniforms, classroom technology and computers, extracurricular activities, and sports equipment.
What is a magnet school?
Some special public schools exist within a school district to offer distinct programs, and these schools are known as magnet schools. Magnet schools may focus on specific subjects like the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields, cater to students gifted in the arts, or offer bilingual programs. Other magnet schools may participate in the international baccalaureate (IB) or advanced placement (AP) college preparatory programs, or follow a specific teaching approach like the Montessori method. Admissions to magnet schools may be determined by an application process or randomized lottery, and often requires proof of residence within a designated area.
Your local school district offices and experienced neighbors are great places to start in navigating the U.S. school system and the differences in public vs. private schools. And of course, CORE Languages destination services consultants are always happy to advise and assist you along the way!