Public vs Private

A unique perspective on the advantages and disadvantages of different types of education


photo by Meg Rees

When school ended on March 13, no one in the graduating class expected their senior year to be forever altered.

Hannah Shiflett, Staff Writer

As a student who has attended both public and private schools, I have developed a unique perspective and understanding of the two types of institutions and what exactly makes them different.

The main difference between public and private schools is quite obvious. A public school is any school that is state-funded through taxpayer money while a private school is funded through student tuition. Private schools cite that the need for extra funding is to support a “better” education, like smaller class sizes and high academic standing, reasons that I heard before attending NASH.

When parents – mine included – consider public vs private schooling, their choice depends largely on the area in which the student is living and the quality of public education in said area. For example, when I first arrived in Pennsylvania, my parents contemplated enrolling me in private school, but ultimately decided on public school, specifically North Allegheny. This was primarily because my parents saw that public schools in western Pennsylvania were held to a higher standard than others I had previously attended.

I attended my last private school in Florida for a brief nine-month period. The school was actually the only option available to me. My parents had me attend a private school because all the other public schools in my area were considered poor academic schools. Compared to the availability of college-prep level classes at my private school, the education provided at public schools wouldn’t have allowed me to academically challenge myself.

Private schooling was the only way to go while living in Florida, even though the tuition was equal to about a year at college. We didn’t pay because it was a fantastic environment, or because it would automatically get me to college, we paid because the private school was comparatively better. States vary in terms of what level of education a student may receive; a private school in one state may be equivalent to a public school in another state. My private education in Florida was similar to my current public education in Pennsylvania, but the public education in Florida that was available to me would have been much weaker in comparison. US. News ranked Pennsylvania 10th in the country for K-12 education, while Florida is ranked 27th, part of the reason for my choice of private education in Florida.

I’ll always be thankful that my parents have enrolled me in schools that maintain high test scores, a good student environment, and great teachers, whether it be in public or private school. However, the social aspect of private schools made me less thankful. I was often in small classes, for example, my class of 40 students in Minnesota. Because of this, I would often find myself being particularly careful who I talked to, hoping not to spread rumors across the grade. Plus, there was more competition to be the top of the class because it wasn’t hard to find out who excelled in what classes.

On the other hand, a public school like North Allegheny seems to negate this issue. The 600+ students in our class serve as a large restriction on the grade-wide rumor mill. Although this larger crowd can be a challenge for some, it can be helpful to others, helping them find a balance between academics and a social life. Often times, students here do not have to worry about someone finding out a secret, or spreading gossip because more often then not, many students are not in the same friend group and therefore unaware of the details of most people’s lives.

While private schools and public schools both have positives and negatives, finding what works best for the individual student is imperative for success.

It’s a matter of knowing how to thrive not only academically, but also socially that can make a difference between which type of school to attend.