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Great question! The major difference between private and public schools is the source of funding. While your local public schools are funded by a combination of local, state and federal funds, private schools usually charge tuition. The government funding that public schools receive is derived from the taxes all of us pay. Although the federal government contributes funds, the bulk of your public school funding comes from state sales and income taxes plus local property taxes. On the other hand, private schools have to charge tuition in order to cover the costs of paying their monthly utility bills and the costs of hiring teachers, school personnel, and building maintenance workers.
Another difference between private and public schools is the curriculum. Many private schools decide what books and materials they will use and what classes they will offer to their students, independent of government input. On the other hand, public schools have to adhere to requirements that are governed by specific standards, like the Common Core standards. Although Common Core doesn't specify what books teachers have to use, instructors have to make sure that certain literacy and math standards are met in the curriculum they use.
Another difference between the two types of schools is that private schools may sometimes specialize in the type of education they offer. For example, in my state, there are some private high schools focused on environmental studies or STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) studies. Private schools may also be religious in character. For example, you may have Jewish, Catholic, Muslim, or Protestant schools. On the other hand, public schools admit students of all faiths.
While some private schools specialize in special needs education, it is worth noting that all public schools are required to have a special needs program for those students who need it.
One last, but very specific difference between public and private schools pertains to the admissions process. Private schools tend to be very selective. Because they do not receive federal funding (as a rule), these schools may be quite difficult to get into. Students may have to submit to a host of testing requirements and interviews. Essay samples may also be required. On the other hand, according to the law, public schools must accept any who apply. So, to gain admission as a student into your local school system, your parents may have had to just fill in some forms and to submit proof of your family's residency.
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