The differences among charter schools, private schools 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 in order to meet the demands of parents and communities. Before going on to accept a teaching position at any one particular institution of learning, it’s important to understand the various differences among charter, private and public schools.

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 that live within the designated boundaries of the school district. 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 do sometimes receive funding from tax money, they also may receive funding from donations or from 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 school. While they still must meet basic curriculum requirements, the way in which that curriculum is taught is largely up to the teacher and the board of the charter school.

For that reason, charger 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 area, such as science or technology. Some charter schools focus on attracting students who are gifted or who don’t respond to traditional teaching methods. Some high risk students may also be admitted to charter schools even if they were suspended from a traditional public school. Charter schools have been increasingly popular throughout the country.

Currently there are almost 3,000 charter schools in existence throughout the U.S. alone.

Magnet schools

Magnet schools are another kind of public school, but they differ from charter schools 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 need to go through a drawn out application process that often includes personal interviews in addition to 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 boarding to gifted students so that they can attend from a community that is not within a reasonable distance from the magnet school.

Magnet schools came about 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 schools and magnet schools offers a choice of attending one of these, or the public school in the district where the family lives. Some school districts do allow families to choose which public school to send the children to. Other school districts are mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 to offer options, particularly when the student’s academic needs are not being met by the nearest public school.

Private School

Funding for private schools comes from donations, endowments, religious organizations and certain educational grants. Private schools are not required to except 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 type of private school that operates as a nonprofit school. this type of school is governed by a board of trustees. 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 but they are not permitted to receive any kind of funding from them or to receive 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 recognize state or local body of regulation and indicates that the independent school is nondiscriminatory in its policies.

Independent schools, such as Andover and Exeter, have a combination of day students 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 schools that are usually governed, owned and run by a church, diocese or parish of some kind. Parochial schools may be Catholic, Protestant, Hebrew or some other religion.

Vast majority of private schools that operate in the U.S. are parochial schools. Religious instruction is included as part of the daily curriculum in addition to 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 maybe part of the clergy or 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 in order 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 one particular area depends on what the local community has founded as well as 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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