Why You Should Put Your Kids in Private Schools

There are a lot of discretionary expenses that we incur every day. Whether we spend more for a brand name product or save money on a generic product is entirely up to each individual buyer. Whether we should buy a new car or a used car or go without a car is also an individual decision. Indeed, personal finance sites are largely devoted to helping readers find ways to reduce discretionary spending without sacrificing quality of life.

So today you may find it odd that I am going to make the case for spending a lot of money for a service that you can otherwise get for free – private or parochial school for your children. I would have been surprised by such a notion until a few years ago, too. When my kids were young, I vowed that they would never go to a private school. Public education was rock solid in my opinion and I was willing to make that case to anyone who would listen. I was misinformed and my concept of public education was many years out of date.

Before I go any further, let me also add that my criticism of the public school system is not based on criticism of its teachers. Although both of my children now attend parochial schools, they did attend public school for a few years and we were generally very impressed with the quality of the teachers. Unfortunately, that was the only thing that impressed us.

Of course, I also would not criticize any parent who truly favors public school over a private or parochial education. Parenting is a very personal decision and I respect that. Nevertheless, if you are considering educational options for your kids, you might also want to consider the following reasons that we have for making private/parochial education our single greatest expense after our mortgage.

Less Violence: Our local public schools are “A” schools, as rated by our state. They also have very disruptive environments and, often, even violent environments. With larger class sizes and a wide range of academic abilities represented in each class, it is much harder for teachers to keep control. Harassment and bullying are very common. By comparison, we have found that in our local parochial schools, harassment and bullying are virtually non-existent. This results in a much better learning environment because there is no environment of intimidation.

Uniforms: Because private and parochial schools require students to wear uniforms, there is no arguing in the morning about whether clothing is appropriate for school. There is also no competition among the students to look the best. Uniforms make shopping for school clothes much easier and they cut down on the cost of clothing because a child wearing a uniform to school usually only needs two identical outfits (with one being worn and the other in the wash each day).

No State Mandated Testing: Private and parochial schools do not typically give the same assessment tests that many states (perhaps all) mandate for their public schools. As a result, private and parochial schools do not have to “teach for the test” and can emphasize a broader based curriculum. This allows each student to perform to his or her level without being held back by students whose performance has not yet reached its potential.

Improved College Transcripts: Based on the colleges that have accepted students from our local private schools, college admissions people give added weight to attendance at competitive parochial and private schools. Also, because private and parochial schools tend to offer a more rigorous curriculum than public schools, students attending private and parochial school should be better prepared for the demands of college.

Money Spent on High School can be saved When in College: We have neighbors who are not happy with the local public schools but they are adamant that they will not move their kids out of the public school system. Instead, they have saved a HUGE amount of money (with a goal of $500,000 by the time their two young sons are 18) so that they can send their boys to private colleges. We take a very different approach and would rather spend money (but much, much less than $500,000 – an amount that I cannot even begin to fathom) on primary and secondary education.

That is not to say that we don’t plan on helping our boys with college, but college can be much less expensive than private and parochial high school. We pre-paid our sons’ tuition in our state’s pre-paid college program many years ago. As a result, they can attend any of our state’s public colleges or universities without paying any tuition. Our pre-paid cost was about $7,000 per child and for that each will be able to attend a good four year undergraduate school, several of which are highly competitive. (Of course, they need to be accepted for admission, and that we will learn pretty soon!). Ultimately, we would rather pay for a solid education before college because we believe that without it, they will not be able to perform as well in college.

More Involved Parents: At our parochial high school, the parents are much more involved than the parents at our local public high school. The classes are also much smaller so it is very easy to get to know the parents and the other children. Of course, there are also a lot of great communities where the public schools can result in close-knit associations, but it is much easier to foster a sense of community in a small parochial or private school than in a larger public school (our local high school as 8,000 students as compared to 1200 at the local parochial high school).

One Free Night Per Week (Maybe!) When our sons were in elementary school, they had to attend religious education one night per week. After they left the public school, they received their religious education in class and thus we all got a free night that we otherwise would have spent driving kids to class. Religious education cost about $200 per year so that amount was also “saved” and could be applied to their tuition.

Each of us has reasons for the educational decisions that we make for our children. I do not stand in criticism of any decisions that you or your family members may make, but I do hope that if you can find a way to afford a private or parochial education, you will at least consider it. My wife and I make sacrifices to ensure the best possible education for our kids, and we are convinced that we have made a sound decision.

What do you think? Are private and parochial school worth the investment? Do you live in a community with public schools that are strong and that you would not consider leaving? Have you had a bad experience with a private or parochial school?

This entry was posted in Education, Personal Finance and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Why You Should Put Your Kids in Private Schools

  1. Luke says:

    I live in a community that doesn’t have as many people as your high school has students! But I am seeking out options for my oldest step son, who is 9, because he is struggling greatly with school right now. The speed at which they move along even if some children aren’t keeping up is astounding. I don’t know if private school with a smaller contingent of students is the answer, or intensive tutoring, but I am exploring all our options. It’s hard to see him be so frustrated all the time.

  2. whitestripe says:

    well, all i can say is that i am glad i dont live in america!

    there is no more ‘violence’ in a public school as there is in private schools.

    public and private schools both have uniforms

    the only testing which i care to comment on is that in private schools, they encourage the ‘less-learned’ (ie those who are there because their parents paid for the school, but dont really want to learn) to sit out of all the final year exams so that the school has a better average.

    public schools in australia also have religious education.

  3. spicoli says:

    Luke — You may want to look in to on-line high school opportunities. If you are in the USA I know there are several available, depending on the state in which you live.

  4. Bill says:

    I can’t say enough good things about private ed in high school. We sent our twins out East because we would rather have a private secondary education and a public university, if that’s what it comes to…

    The influences are incredibly positive. I know our kids will handle college well, wherever they end up.

  5. Lori says:

    In addition, please LISTEN to your kids on how the school is treating them. My parents sent my brother and I to private schools through high school. The private high school was mostly all of the good things you list, but the elementary school was full of underachievers, bullies, and poor teachers. We begged our parents to let us try the (highly rated) public school near our home, but never succeeded. Now even my mother regrets keeping us at that school.

  6. SAH says:

    If you live in an affluent area, then the schools are usually good.

    Not surprisingly, if you live in the ghetto, then the schools suffer.

    My advice, save money on private school tuition by living in a well-to-do area.

  7. Caoineag says:

    I went to a highly rated public school so I had access to many of the resources that are only available to private school kids normally. I know it was the resources available to me that helped me succeed in attending college (something that no one in my family had ever done). So I can see the advantages. That said, I did go to a public school that did just as well but that does take research.

  8. Ann says:

    I don’t have kids but….

    My parent’s always bought their house for location, location, location and a lot of that location was based on the quality of the public schools.

    I can understand parents who want to send their kids to private school when there’s absolutely NO public school of decent quality available, but it’s all about choice. My dad put up with some horrid commutes just so that we could live where the schools were known to be top notch.

  9. cursingmama says:

    Without outing my child –
    It has been my experience that when one has a child who requires extra attention the attention in parochial schools is far better and more positive across the board (I’m not talking teachers exclusively here, I’m talking institution wide). I wonder if it is because they don’t have the same mandates & reports to write – and instead can spend so much more time focusing on helping? My child will never attend a traditional 4 year college, and will certainly never see the benefit of a better transcript or any of those Higher Education items you’ve listed; but, my child, will graduate and is in a safer environment.

    Worth every penny for us.

  10. justme says:

    I think if you have money and choose to send your kids to private school that is great
    most of the people I know do not have the money and send them anyway

    a funny note about when i was in school whenever kids would get in trouble their parents would put them in private school,so I always thought private school was for potsmokers and trouble makers

  11. Bill says:

    One surprising thing about private secondary education is that about 30-35% of their students receive full or partial aid. Most people don’t know this and don’t apply.

  12. Having gone to an “inner-city” public school relatively recently, neither me or my friends had any bully problems. And I was a blond straight A student in the top 1% of my graduating class.

    My DH went to a Catholic school. We ended up in the same good private university and I got a bigger scholorship.

    He ended up being as agnostic as me, religious education nonwithstanding.

  13. Persephone says:

    As sad as it is, I have found that private school is far superior to public school. The positive learning environment, the involved parents and the reduced violence (my childrens’ private school has a zero tolerance policy for drugs or violence – they also liberally issue detentions for any violation of school rules).

    I live in a community with what are considered to be excellent public schools. I did try them, but when I saw the difference in the demeanor of private school children versus public school children, I felt I had no choice but to send my children to private school. My only regret, is that I didn’t put my children in private school sooner.

  14. Monkey Mama says:

    It depends on the schools where you live. I think education is important, and if you have to spend money on it, you have to. IT would be hard for me to criticize someone who lives in a significantly cheaper area (most everyone) but chooses to spend more money on education than we do on housing, etc.

    That being said, you overlooked something called the “charter school.” It boasts most of the benefits you touted without the religion. & since charter schools are public schools, they are FREE. Many of them mimic successful private school cirriculums.

    & this is where it gets down to region. My spouse went to private catholic school and though maybe he was a tad more sheltered, his experience was subpar in every way. HIs education simply sucked. I had a far better education in the “scary” public schools. I never witnessed any voilence or felt fear. & my high school had a horrible reputation (lord knows why). I think a lot of that in many areas is WAY blown out of proportion. In the grand scheme of things we were very middle class and I was extrmeely sheltered.

    FRom our experiences we were extremely pro public school, but tried to keep an open mind. We heard the stories; things have changed since WE were in school. We had school board politics galore and in the end the parents teamed together to form one of many Charter schools in our area. We have a lot of educators in our neighborhood who were aware of the process and benefits.

    Honestly, our only complaint is we feel the kids are WAY too sheltered in this school. But we feel lucky we have a school just down the street that doesn’t teach to the lowest common demoninator, and has very high parental involvement. Since our children are so bright and seeing what has been going on, we were worried we would have to fund private educations, or resort to homechooling, just to keep them challenged. In the end we have found a wondersul public option that fits them both well.

    My spouse and I both went to large public high schools with less than stellar reputations. We both LOVED our high school experience. I am hoping our kids can have a similar experience at the local public high school. BUT if not, living in a bigger city, the charter school options are many. I have no idea why anyone in an area like this would spend so much money on private school with the wide range of charter school choices – many of which mimic successful private schools.

    I totally understand choosing private school, on the other hand, if the school pickings are slim. I just hope one would search out every option available before looking at everything so black and white. In the grand scheme of thing, parental involvement goes a LONG way, no matter what schooling option you choose. I saw a lot of people in my high school blaming the school for bad parenting. I find it hard to believe those kids would do any better in private school. My “bad reputation” high school was not tolerant on any level of illegal behavior, violence, etc. But plenty of that went on after school, OFF campus. That’s a parenting issue, not a school issue.

  15. Monkey Mama says:

    BTW, a high school of 8000 students in INSANE. That is not the norm. I thought my high school was the biggest in the country (it was in like the top 10). We had 4000 students. But it was more like college than high school (it was originally a college campus). I thrived with it and was far better prepared for college. There seemed to be a lot more maturity at my high school. I don’t understand the “mean girls” phenomenen – that was 5th grade. I think the thing is it’s hard to be either top dog or underdog in a school so big. IT was very freeing. I honestly wish my kids could go to a high school as big. I missed that part the first read. I would expect most private schools and public schools to be smaller than your examples. I had to comment on that!

  16. belinda r says:

    I attended parochial schools for 12 years. I did not subject my children to them. I attended an Catholic school in an upper middle class suburb. There was plenty of harrassment and teasing. Fortunately, it was not aimed at me.
    There were and are no social workers to help children who are the subject of this abuse.

    There is no accountability which results in grade inflation and lack of uniform standards.

    Everyone knew and knows who the kids are with a lot of money even with uniforms. they judge by homes, cars and vacations.

    There are no IEPS to help special needs children. They aren’t even identified. I taught in a Caholic school for one year and I could not believe the number of childern passed on to other grades without the needed skills. i was even told ‘not to mention’ this to parents as the parents were very good members of the parish.” Thank God, i didn’t need the job, so I did inform the parents and one child was so learning disabled, he was put in a private learning center after being independently tested.

    Additionally, childern never interact with Jewish or Protestant kids. They are viewed as ‘different.’

    I personally think parochial schools are very much inferior to public schools in the same neighborhoods.

  17. Princessperky says:

    BTW I think the variety of schools is largely overlooked, I taught in a wonderful small private school, and I attended both a large and small public AND a large and small private. I would say the difference lay in the administration and how the teachers worked with them, not in the label or size.

  18. Princessperky says:

    my post on homeschooling was lost 🙁

  19. Jackie says:

    I don’t have kids, but one of my friends sends her two children to Catholic school. In our area the public schools are pretty bad so this is a better option for her family. However, he son has some pretty severe allergies, including allergies to peanuts and eggs. His school has been pretty good about it all and works very well with them as a family to accomodate his needs (he’s one of I think 3 kids w/ a peanut allergy), but mostly it works because of how involved my friend and her husband are with the school. Academically, the private school is the better option but she found out early that from his allergy disability standpoint, they would have more options in a public school.

    So, if you have kids with some severe allergies (one of my mom’s friends has a daughter who is allergic to something in erasers), public schools may be the better option because you have more legal leeway to force changes than a private school that isn’t, doesn’t or can’t make those same accomodations.

  20. Kiki says:

    I’d really like to see the results of your search that proves the following statement:

    Improved College Transcripts: Based on the colleges that have accepted students from our local private schools, college admissions people give added weight to attendance at competitive parochial and private schools.

    As a former admissions officer at the type of school has little to no part of the decision process for the applicants. Grades, experience, activities, letters of recommendations, but schools is nto considered.

  21. Jay Gatsby says:

    I can see the argument for private schools and then a public university. However, this requires careful analysis whether the private school offer a better education than the public school. If it does, then the question comes down the money. Also, if you want your children to receive a religious education along with a secular one, then a private school is the way to go.

  22. R-MA mom says:

    IMHO, it all comes down to what’s best for your individual child. I’m a product of an excellent public school, but I was in all the honors classes, and that made a huge difference.

    My son, who is now a freshman in a private school, is smart, but did not test into “gifted and talented” classes in public school because, as I was informed, it’s not the grades that matter, but the way in which they think. I was concerned he’d fall throught the cracks at public school.

    Why? Because as an admissions counselor at a private school, I saw many intelligent kids like my son come through. These were kids who had all A’s and B’s at one point in time, but were not in the G/T program. They started slipping through the cracks because of large classes where the teachers had to teach to the lowest common denominator.

    These kids come to a private school with smaller classes and flourish. So of course they usually get better scholarships than they would have if they had stayed at public school, because their grades are better!

    My son’s happy here…he’s happy with the academics, the sports, the Air Force JROTC program, everything. And he’s growing into a confident young man whose grades reflect his intelligence. That makes me a happy mom. 🙂

  23. Diane says:

    It really depends on the quality of the public schools where you live.

    My 2 sons went to Catholic grade school through 8th grade, because we did not live in the area of the best public grade schools.

    However, both have attended the local public high school, which is highly rated, and I have been satisfied with the results.

    1. Our public schools DO require uniforms

    2. They have more funding, better equipment (computer labs, etc.) than the private schools.

    3. The high school provides free after school tutoring 3 days a week.

    4. The school environment is very tightly controlled and feels safe.

    5. There is less parental involvement than I would like, but parents are asked and welcome to be involved.

    6. Teachers are extremely responsive to parental contact & requests for help.

    7. Lots more choices of classes available than in private high schools.

    8. Excellent Honors programs for qualified students.

    9. My older son earned credit for 4 college classes (12 hours) with his high school classes.

    10. Close to home & bus transportation provided – including after tutoring & sports practice.

    If your public school does not meet your requirements, by all means I would pay for private school. But check it out to compare schools before deciding. Public education can be great, under the right circumstances.

  24. fern says:

    I couldn’t disagree with you more. Your thinking is full of distortions.

    1. You’re using broad stereotypes and generalizations by saying that public schools are violent, their class sizes are larger and there’s more bullying going on there. It all depends on where you live and what school you’re talking about.

    2. Arguments with your kids about clothing vs uniforms is a pretty minor consideration in the grand scheme of things.

    3. Yes, not only is there no state-mandated testing in private schools, which many would say is a bad thing, but private school teachers are not required to get certification by the state, as are public school teachers. There can be a huge difference among teachers in terms of qualifications and experience in the private school system.

    4. Improved college transcripts across the board and more rigorous agendas at private schools? Again, i doubt it. Sounds like opinion, not fact.

    5. Unlike you, I’d rather spend $ on my kids college education, not the lower grades, because many kids are still getting their act together when they are younger and only get serious about studies as they become young adults.

    6. More involved parents at private schools? Another unfair statement, to be sure.

    7. You say you save gas not having to drive your kids to religion class cus it’s taught at the private school? That really sounds like you’re grasping at straws here.

  25. jaamisha griffith says:

    i want to know do private schools put you in your right grade?

  26. Pingback: Cutting School Book Costs - SavingAdvice.com Blog

  27. momqns says:

    Parochial School gets a bad rap.
    Our our attended a public “gifted” program, which was anything but gifted! It was a complete joke.

    His parochial school is more willing to meet his needs.
    He can do John Hopkins CTY math at school.
    Teacher allows me to send in appropriate work for him to do.
    He can read whatever books he wants in class. He is not forced to read Cat in the Hat when he can read the NY Times.

    What a complete waste of time the public school was. My son might as well have staying home all day watchinng TV.

  28. Anna says:

    I go to Catholic School & there is no violence.. There is nothing serious.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *