I’m a public school teacher.
I love my job. I love my students. I love my school!
And I’m sending my kids to a private school anyway.
I know this is going to sound hypocritical, but this is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made – as a parent and as a teacher.
Yes, that’s going to sound a lot like a chef telling you that they never eat at their own restaurant.
I’ve heard plenty of that from friends and neighbors – even some family members.
But you know who I never hear those kinds of comments from?
My fellow public school teachers.
They understand perfectly why this kind of decision is made, and it’s made a lot more frequently than most would ever expect.
But we’ll get more into that in just a moment.
For now, though, just understand that these decisions are never made by teachers because they don’t like the schools they work for or they don’t trust public education.
If that was the case, the odds are pretty good most of them would no longer be teaching in public capacities. They would be doing something else.
No, public school teachers that send their children to private schools do so because they understand how important education is, they understand how transformative the right education can be, and they also understand the limitations and heart breaking shortcomings of most public school experiences.
Here’s why I’m a public school teacher but a private school parent.
This Decision Isn’t Rare
About 11% of all parents in the United States choose to send their children to private schools.
And while many of these schools have a religious affiliation (nearly 80% of them), the overwhelming majority of parents in America choosing to send their children to private school do so for the educational opportunities to these organizations offer.
What’s even more interesting, though, is that public school teachers are twice as likely to send their children to private schools than the national average.
A little more than 21% of public school teachers have children K-12 currently enrolled in private schools right now. The only group that has a larger percentage of parents sending their children to private schools are members of Congress!
This decision, while hypocritical appearing on the surface perhaps, is nowhere as uncommon as one might think.
Another study polled public school teachers with school-aged children and asked them if they had the opportunity and the means to send their children to a private school found that nearly 90% would do so in the blink of an eye.
Again, this is not an indictment of the public school system.
These teachers are people that deeply love education, are serious and committed to helping shape the lives of young people, and are doing their best in public school settings to deliver the best possible educational experience they can.
At the same time, these public school teachers know better than anyone else just how hard it is to succeed away public school educations.
The budgets for these public schools are always under attack, forcing schools to look for nontraditional means of funding or to cut programs, cut teachers, or cut resources.
That’s not conducive to building an organization that delivers a true top-tier education.
On top of that, most parents would agree that the overwhelming majority of public schools today are run more like childcare facilities than anything else.
Money for textbooks, money for technology, and money for other educational aids just isn’t there when there are so many other organizations in a town or district that needs funding, too.
Every parent wants to make sure that their children gets the best possible education. Sometimes that’s just not going to happen at a public school – and who better to diagnose the situation than a teacher working in that facility?
Why Public School Teachers Send Their Children to Private Ones
There are a myriad of reasons why public school teachers choose to send their children to private schools, some more compelling than others.
At the end of the day, though, it’s all about making sure that children get a world-class education – something that every single child deserves.
Greater Choice and Flexibility
One reason a lot of parents choose to take advantage of public school opportunities is because of the myriad of choice and flexibility these kinds of organizations provide.
With more than 35,000 private schools in the United States (currently serving north of 6 million students between the grades of kindergarten and 12th grade), private schools make up about 25% of all the schools in the country – even though they only enroll 10% of the students.
This means that there are almost unlimited private school opportunities to take advantage of, and the odds are good that many of these organizations will fit a public school teacher budget or have scholarships/funding packages that make it more accessible, too.
Parents are also able to search for private school programs that have values that align with their own.
Public schools are an amalgamation of a region and its values to be sure, but it’s hard to impress some of these values on students when they get so little time with teachers – real, focused, one-on-one time.
Private schools do not have that problem.
Many have strict dress codes, rules and regulations, and the ethos about them that provides a lot of extra structure to the day than public schools might.
Some parents find this to be overbearing (and perhaps some of them are) but it’s hard to argue with the results!
Tighter Student-Parent-Teacher Relationships
The fact that so many private schools are built around the idea of open lines of communication between students, parents, and teachers – the three cornerstones of a quality education – is a major influence behind public school teachers making this decision.
Regular parent-teacher conferences, social events that get the entire family and faculty to know one another, and number of regular initiatives to get parents more actively involved in their student’s educational lives happen with more frequency in private schools than they do in public ones.
All of this helps to get everyone “onboard”, pulling in the same direction, and invested in the success of students in the private school itself.
It’s not that public schools are devoid of these kinds of initiatives, or that they are uninterested in getting parents to be more actively involved in the education of their children.
It all comes back to the problem of scale with public schools.
When you have an organization designed to teach as many children as possible there are obviously going to be some corners cut and some shortcuts taken that just don’t happen when you scale things down the way a private school will.
It’s not at all uncommon for private school teachers to provide their own personal contact information to parents, encouraging them to reach out whenever they have questions about how things are progressing.
That’s almost impossible to find in public schools.
Tailored Learning Programs
Another huge benefit of moving forward with private schools is the truly tailored learning programs they provide each individual student.
Private school curriculums can be custom tailored in a way that public schools cannot.
Because they are almost always smaller, more flexible, and better funded they can also devote their cash and capital (as well as their teaching resources) to what students – and parents – are most interested in as far as their education is concerned.
This custom tailored educational track (especially starting at a young age) has considerable advantages over the more traditional public school system. Children aren’t “lost in the shuffle” at a private school the way they might be with larger classes and larger enrollment, either.
Speaking of that…
Private schools are (almost always) intentionally much smaller than public schools, all in an effort to provide a better and more personalized education to the students that are attending.
According to information published by the National Center for Educational Statistics in 2017, fully 87% of private schools in the United States had enrollment sizes lower than 300 students.
No, it’s not that the schools would have a tough time finding more than 300 students to fill out their classes.
If that these organizations want to keep education small, want to make sure that teachers aren’t overwhelmed or overburdened, and want to be sure that students receive as much one-on-one time with their educators and mentors as possible.
You are not going to find private schools with individual classroom sizes that balloon to 30 to 45 students (and sometimes get even larger than that) like you would in a public setting.
This intentional approach to keep things much more focused as a huge impact on how students respond along their educational pathway.
When students have an opportunity to speak to their teacher one-on-one, not every few weeks when they are called on to answer something but instead every single time they sit down for a class, there’s a much greater transfer of knowledge that there could have been otherwise.
On top of that, students and educators in these situations are able to build stronger rapport with one another.
This trust makes it possible to navigate more difficult educational subjects and educational obstacles that inevitably pop up in a student’s life with more ease. Private school teachers have a much better “temperature” on their students and how they are coming along because of this one-on-one time, too.
All of these factors come together to produce a situation that public school teachers would love to be able to do in their own schools, but just don’t have the room, the space, the time, or the resources to pull off.
There isn’t a public school teacher on the planet that wouldn’t love to have classes run just like they are in private schools.
Recognizing the obvious limitations, though, these public school teachers regularly out for the next best thing – and that’s making sure that their children get those experiences they’d love to provide their own students.
Finding the Right Private School
Of course, finding the right private school to send your student to is nowhere near as simple or straightforward as it might appear on the surface – even as a public school teacher with a lot of experience that a lot of knowledge of schools in your area.
There are a handful of key criteria you’ll want to look for in the private school you end up choosing for your students, though.
Enrollment and Stability
For starters, you’ll need to be sure that the private school you’ll be sending your child to is small enough to offer one-on-one educational opportunities but large enough to provide plenty of social, extracurricular, and that exclusively educational opportunities for your student, too.
Take a close look at enrollment stability as well.
You want to be sure that small class sizes are intentional and not due to significant drops in enrollment.
Private schools are not required to meet specific rules, regulations, and standards outlined by the state that they are operating in, and aren’t even required to follow state or district manager curriculums or even higher certified teachers.
This is why accreditation is so important.
Accreditation gives a private school the “stamp of approval” that they are meeting their stated objectives, that they are a legitimate private educational organization, and that the education your child receives there is going to be worth the investment.
Private schools have a very specific stigma to them that is hard to shake, and while that stigma is unfair it is true that private schools have their own unique culture about them – even from one school to the next.
That’s a big part of their appeal, especially for public school teachers that feel their own facilities are lacking in this department.
Tour the campus if possible, engage with teachers and with students whenever you can, and really try to breathe in the culture of the private facilities you’re considering before you move forward.
As much as we don’t like to admit it, there are economic realities all parents – including public school teachers – had to face when they are investing in their child’s education.
Given a magic wand, every public school teacher would waive it over their own facilities and flood them with unlimited resources, rendering private schools unnecessary and obsolete.
Unfortunately, that magic wand does not yet exist.
In the real world, parents have to consider the tuition and other expenses associated with sending their child to a private school. Thankfully, there are private schools available to fit every budget imaginable.
On top of that, almost all private schools will offer some sort of scholarship program or financial assistance for families that need a little help.
At the end of the day, your search for the right private school is likely going to take a little longer than you expect – but that’s not a bad thing.
That means that you are taking it seriously.
You’re sure to find top-flight options during your search (schools like The Tenney School in Houston, Texas) that deserve a closer look. Go into the selection process with open eyes, clear objectives to get the best education for your student, and the info highlighted above and you should be good to go!
And if you’re ever feeling guilty about sending your child off to a private school, reach out to a public school teacher and asked them what they would do.
Just don’t be surprised when they tell you their answer!