Family Ministry

advice, thoughts, and discussion

Private schools, public schools…or homeschooling?

on January 20, 2013

After talking to some of the parents in our family ministry, it occurred to me how much of a struggle some families have in choosing how to educate their children. So, I did some research and I dug up some facts on options other than public schooling, thanks to our friends at Focus on the Family… Here is goes:

School Choice in the United States

School choice, or the right to decide where and how to educate your children, has always existed for parents who could afford to send their children to a private school or to move to a better school district. Today, however, many states are implementing policies and programs that make available an unprecedented array of education options for families of varying levels.  As of 2011, families in at least 18 states had some form of school choice, and legislators in 41 states introduced or passed school choice bills.

While there are many different types of “school choice” programs, they can be generally categorized into two basic forms: public school choice and private school choice.

Private School Choice

Private school choice refers to publicly funded scholarship programs that redirect the flow of education funding to individual families rather than to government schools. In other words, the money now follows the child rather than a bureaucracy. Under these programs, parents can apply for scholarships that allow them to send their child to a private school of their choice, including religious ones.

Without school choice scholarships, parents who want their kids to go to a private school would have to, in essence, double pay. In other words, they would pay for a private education while also paying taxes that go toward public education. That means private schools are out of the question for many middle class and underprivileged families. School choice is designed to solve this problem. It would level the playing field for families of different incomes by allowing parents to redirect their tax dollars toward schools of their choice.

More than 150,000 children benefit from private school choice programs across the country.2

These programs can be categorized into three main types:

  1. Opportunity Scholarship Programs. The purest form of school choice, opportunity scholarship programs offer parents the opportunity to apply for scholarships that they can allocate toward tuition for their children at a private school, including a faith-based institution.
  2. Special Needs and Foster-Child Scholarships. Even in states where there is significant opposition to more widespread school choice, incremental programs that seek to benefit the neediest children have been successful – especially scholarships designed to assist children with disabilities and those within the foster-care system.
  3. Tax Credit Scholarship Programs. These programs allow corporations who donate to school choice scholarships to receive tax credits for their contributions.
  4. Education Savings Accounts: ESAs allow parents or guardians to have the state deposit a percentage of their child’s per pupil funding into a savings account, which they can then use for various educational options, including private school tuition, online education, tutoring costs, or even college courses.

Public School Choice

Despite the spread of private school choice programs, the majority of students – an estimated 56 million – remain in government-funded public schools, and too many of those schools are under performing or failing. We spend nearly 500 billion on public schools, and yet graduation rates are as low as 52 to 56 percent for minority students. Clearly, efforts to increase choice and competition for families inside the public school system remain essential.

This being said, the school systems in the area surrounding our church in particular are some of the best in the country, with a huge turn-over rate to colleges and successful careers. My hometown public schools was amazing as well. Ranking extremely high in test scores and career success. I was also able to learn how to deal with the real world before becoming an adult, which I believe matured me more as a person, and strengthened rather than hindered my strong faith.

But, if you feel that your local public schools are doing poorly and not giving kids the best possible education, you have more public school choices.

  1. Charter Schools.Charter schools represent the most popular form of public school choice and have seen tremendous growth in the last few years. Charter schools are publicly funded institutions that have more autonomy and freedom from bureaucratic control than standard public schools. This autonomy is provided in exchange for agreed upon measures of accountability described in the school’s charter. Charter schools can be started by parents, private companies, religious organizations or even universities. Parents often work together to start charter schools in their neighborhood that offer unique programs tailored to the needs of community children. Many charter schools are designed to assist disadvantaged students or those who have not been able to thrive in traditional public schools.
  2. Other Forms of Choice. Another example of public school choice worth mentioning is a key provision in the No Child Left Behind education law. This provision allows children in consistently failing schools to transfer to a better performing public school.
  3. There is also a significant growth of “virtual schools,” which allow students to participate in online public education in the privacy of their home.

Home Schools

Outside both private and public choice, home schooling is an important option that provides parents complete freedom to choose and direct their child’s educational curriculum. Today there are an estimated 2 million students receiving their education at home. I would not, however, recommend this option if you don’t feel that teaching is a part of your gifting.

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