One of the advantages of private elementary and secondary education is the likelihood of more extensive student resources and opportunities than one can typically find in a public school setting. Perhaps this disparity between public and private schools has always existed, but budgetary shortfalls in many communities resulting from the recent economic crisis have served to widen the gulf. While this disparity is quite evident in the classroom, one could argue that it is felt even more strongly outside of the classroom.
First and foremost, a school is a place of learning. Parents contemplating private school placements for their children often do so out of a desire to improve the child's learning environment and his or her chance for academic success. School districts that have been forced to lay off teachers, administrators and support staff due to budget cuts will have a difficult time matching the curricular depth and rigor available in a district that has not faced such reductions, or, for the purposes of this piece, in a stable private school setting. For example, while many public schools do offer Advanced Placement courses–and some even conduct one or more of the International Baccalaureate programs–private schools generally have an advantage in this regard due to their lack of reliance on public tax dollars.
There is much more to education, however, than academic development. For a student to be well rounded, he or she should ideally engage in an array of activities outside the classroom. It is also in this arena that well-run private schools, with their endowments and greater resources, fare quite well in comparison to their public school counterparts.
Time and time again, tough budgetary decisions have resulted in the reduction of–and, at times, the elimination of–public school athletic programs, art and music offerings, and student clubs and activities. As a result, many thousands of public school students nationwide have been left with reduced choices in these important areas. Boys and girls cannot help but suffer as a consequence.
Contrast this scenario with the wealth of options on display at a highly regarded private school. Possibilities for the musically inclined are extensive, with many private schools maintaining several choirs, orchestras and bands. Young artists may well have access to an art gallery and typically have regular opportunities to display their work. Instead of seeing fewer athletic options with each passing year, private school students choose from varsity, junior varsity and, in many instances, freshman teams–not only in the most popular American sports, but also in such pursuits as equestrianism, lacrosse and squash. Intramural athletics are also more plentiful in a typical private school setting.
Student clubs, addressing wide-ranging interests, number in the dozens at many competitive private schools; the same certainly cannot be said for the average public school. Resources are also typically more plentiful at private schools for community service programming. Often a required component of the private school curriculum, service work contributes significantly to character development.
In short, the pursuit of academic excellence is a terrific reason to consider private education–but it is far from the only one.