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Teaching in Public vs. Private Schools

Teaching in Public vs. Private Schools

6 May, 2016

School choice is a hot topic regarding education especially when it comes to public vs. private schools. How parents decide to educate their children is highly argued, but do teachers have options when it comes to school choice? As a teacher, landing your first job isn’t always easy.

Teaching is a very competitive field and it always appears like there are more teachers than there are jobs available. Perspective teachers applying for a position in a private school should be aware that there are differences between public and private schools that will impact them as a teacher. Knowing those differences should be important. You want to teach at a place where you are comfortable.

Here are the major teaching differences between Public and Private schools:


The budget of a private school basically comes from a combination of tuition and fundraising.

This means that the overall budget of a school relies on how many students are enrolled and the overall wealth of the donors who support it. This can be difficult for newer private schools and an overall benefit for an established private school that have successful alumni willing to support the school.

The bulk of the budget of a public school is driven by local property taxes and state education aid. Schools also obtain some federal money to support federal programs. Some public schools are also fortunate to have local businesses or individuals who support them through donations, but this is not the norm. The budget for public schools is normally tied to their state’s economic status. When a state goes through an economic hardship schools receive less money than they usually would. This often forces school administrators to make difficult cuts.


Public schools need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and a teaching certificate to be a certified teacher. These requirements are set by the state; whereas requirements for private schools are set by their individual governing boards. Most private schools normally follow the same requirements as public schools. However, there are a few private schools that do not ask for a teaching certificate and in some cases may hire teachers without a particular degree. There are also private schools that only look to hire teachers who hold an advanced degree.

Curriculum and Assessment

For public schools, the curriculum is mostly driven by state mandated objectives and for most states will soon be driven by the Common Core State Standards. Individual districts may also have additional objectives based on their individual community needs. These state mandated objectives also drive the state standardized testing that all public schools are required to give.

State and federal governments have much smaller impact on private school curriculum. Private schools can basically develop and implement their own curriculum and assessments. One of the major differences is that private schools may integrate religious curriculum into their schools whereas public schools cannot. Most private schools are established based on religious principles so this lets them to indoctrinate their students with their beliefs. Other private schools may choose to focus more on a specific area such as math or science. In this case their curriculum will concentrate more on those specific areas, whereas a public school is more balanced in their approach.


The old saying goes that kids will be kids. This is true for both public and private schools. There are going to be discipline issues in either case. Public schools typically have more major discipline problems such as violence and drugs than private schools do. Public school administrators spend most of their time handling student discipline issues.

Private schools are likely to have more parental support which often leads to less discipline issues. They also have more flexibility than public schools when it comes to removing a student from a classroom or expelling them from school all together. Public schools are required to take every student who lives in their district. A private school can simply end their relationship with a student who constantly refuses to obey their expected policies and procedures.


A limiting factor for private schools is their lack of diversity. Public schools are much more diverse than private schools in many areas like ethnicity, socioeconomic status, student needs, and academic ranges. The truth is that going to a private school costs too much money for most Americans to send their children to. This factor alone tends to restrict diversity within a private school. The reality is that most of the population in private schools is made up of students who are from Caucasian upper middle class families.


Public schools are required to accept every student regardless of their disability, academic level, religion, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, etc. This can also have an adverse impact on class size especially in years where budgets are thin. It is not uncommon for there to be 30-40 students in a single classroom in a public school.

Private schools control their enrollment. This allows them to maintain class sizes in a more ideal 15-18 student range. Controlling enrollment also is advantageous for teachers in that the overall range of where students are academically are much closer than a typical public school classroom. This is a very important benefit for both students and teachers in private schools.

Parental Support

In public schools the quantity of parental support for the school varies. It basically relies upon the community where the school is located. Unfortunately there are communities that do not give importance to education and only send their kids to school because it is a requirement or because they think of it as free babysitting. There are also many public school communities who value education and give tremendous support. Those public schools with low support provide a different set of challenges than those with high parental support.

Private schools almost always have incredible parental support. After all, they are paying for their child’s education and when money is exchanged there is an unspoken guarantee that they intend to be engaged with their child’s education. Parental involvement is very significant in the overall academic growth and development of a child. It also makes a teacher’s job easier in the long run.


A surprising truth is that public school teachers are typically paid more than private school teachers. However this relies on the individual school itself, so it may not essentially be the case. Some private schools may also give benefits that public schools do not include tuition for higher education, housing, or meals.

One reason that public school teachers have higher salary is because most private schools do not have a teacher’s union. Teaching unions fight hard for their members to be fairly compensated. Without these strong union ties it is difficult for private school teachers to negotiate for better pay.