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The differences between charter, private, and public schools include funding sources, application and tuition requirements, curriculum, and how they operate.

This article delves into the differences and commonalities.

There are many different kinds of schools for teachers to work at in the United States. Over the years, charter schools and other types of schools have been created to meet the demands of parents and communities. Before accepting a teaching position at any particular learning institution, it’s important to understand the differences between charter, private and public schools.

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Charter School Vs. Private School Vs. Public School

The funding for public schools comes from a combination of federal, state, and local funds. Except in certain cases, public schools are required to accept all students living within the school district’s designated boundaries. Two other kinds of public schools include charter and magnet schools.

Public School Vs. Charter School

Charter schools came into existence in the decade of the 1990s. Although charter schools sometimes receive funding from tax money, they may also receive funding from donations or some for-profit organizations. Typically, funding for charter schools comes from local sources. Charter schools are commonly founded by parent groups, communities, teacher groups, or for-profit organizations. Charter schools are tuition-free and independently operated. In addition, school and classroom materials are typically provided at no charge to students or their families.

The biggest difference between traditional public schools and charter schools is that charter schools are not subject to most of the oversight and regulations of public schools. While they still must meet basic curriculum requirements, how that curriculum is taught is largely up to the teacher and the charter school board.

For that reason, charter schools often go past the accepted boundaries of accepted teaching practices. They may use unconventional methods that are more cutting-edge or that offer specialization in one or more areas, such as science or technology. Some charter schools focus on attracting gifted students or those who don’t respond to traditional teaching methods. Some high-risk students may also be admitted to charter schools even if suspended from a traditional public school. Charter schools have been increasingly popular throughout the country.

Currently, almost 3,000 charter schools exist throughout the U.S. alone.

Magnet schools

Magnet schools are another public school but differ from charter and traditional public schools. Magnet schools work to attract students of a high caliber and strive to create a competitive learning atmosphere that challenges gifted students.

The schools themselves are considered highly selective. Students must go through a drawn-out application process that often includes personal interviews and arduous testing. The curriculum is highly competitive, and magnet schools work to ensure that every admitted student is up to the challenge. Magnet schools can also sometimes be boarding schools. They may offer to board gifted students so they can attend from a community, not within a reasonable distance from the magnet school.

Magnet schools emerged in the early 1970s as an alternative to traditional public schools. The initial purpose was to allow students to attend an alternative public school outside the school district in which they lived. As such, student diversity remains a high priority of magnet schools.

By far, the biggest benefit of public schools is that parents don’t have to concern themselves with paying tuition. In addition, having the option of charter and magnet schools offers a choice of attending one of these or the public school in the district where the family lives. Some districts allow families to choose which public school to send their children. Other school districts are mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 to offer options, particularly when the nearest public school does not meet the student’s academic needs.

Private School

Funding for private schools comes from donations, endowments, religious organizations, and certain educational grants. Private schools are not required to accept any particular student. As such, students must apply to be admitted to a private school. Some private schools admit both male and female students. Others are single-sex schools. Of the elementary and secondary schools that operate in the United States, it is estimated that a third of them are private.

Independent schools

Independent schools are a private school that operates as the nonprofit school. a board of trustees governs this type of school. The most famous examples of independent schools are Exeter and Andover.

Independent schools are funded by tuition, charitable contributions, endowments, and donations from alumni. Typically, they do not receive funding from taxes or religious institutions. Independent schools may be affiliated with a local church. Still, they are not permitted to receive any funding from them or any kind of oversight or governance from a religious institution.

There are approximately 2000 independent schools in the United States. Almost three-quarters of them are members of the National Association of Independent Schools. This membership establishes accreditation by the recognized state or local body of regulation and indicates that the independent school is non-discriminatory in its policies.

Independent schools, such as Andover and Exeter, have a combination of day and boarding students. Day students pay less for tuition. The median cost of tuition for boarding students is $34,900 at an independent school. The median cost of tuition for day students at an independent school is $17,800.

Parochial schools

Parochial schools are usually governed, owned, and run by a church, diocese, or parish. Parochial schools may be Catholic, Protestant, Hebrew, or other religions.

The vast majority of private schools that operate in the U.S. are parochial schools. Religious instruction is included as part of the daily curriculum and the academic curriculum established by the government. It is not uncommon for some parochial school students to attend church services as part of their regular school day. The teaching staff at a parochial school may be part of the clergy, laypersons, or a combination of both. Teachers at parochial schools may or may not be trained and certified educators.

Students are not required to be of a certain faith to attend a parochial school. However, the student will still be required to partake in religious instruction and/or prayer services that may be part of the regular curriculum.


The variety of schools available in any particular area depends on what the local community has founded and what the government provides in the way of public schools. The number of public schools in an area generally depends on the population of an area. In other words, a larger population will have more public schools in the area to choose from.

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