New York Family Partner: Ask The Admissions Expert About Public Vs Private Education

How do I decide between public and private education for my child(ren)?

The choice is very personal to your family and your values, philosophy, and goals. Perhaps a private religious school is important to your family, or one where a particular sport is offered. Look at your child as an individual and the kind of learner he or she is. Whether in public or private school, getting involved in your child’s education is one of the most important things that you can do.

What are the benefits of public education?

Public education is free and open to all, as long as local residency requirements are met—whereas the financial impact of a private education can be up to $50,000 per year, per child, in addition to expected donations above and beyond tuition. Also consider that, in many cases, public schools are larger than private schools, and therefore students can be challenged with a wider range of AP and IB courses. Typically, there are a greater number of academic, athletic, and extracurricular activity choices than in private schools. One of the advantages of public education, traditionally, has been the opportunity to be educated within a community, allowing children to make friends who live nearby.

Why private education?

Know your child, even if private schooling is a tradition in your family. There may be more opportunities to individualize instruction because of smaller class sizes. If he or she is a “C” student and absent from school a lot for whatever reason, a competitive private school would not be the best choice. However, for the same child, a private school with small classes and highly individualized learning opportunities might be a wonderful setting. Finally, private schools are free of the political rollercoaster related to testing that can interfere with the education process in the public sector.

What about disabilities?

Within the public sector, your child is entitled to a free and appropriate education. If your child meets the qualifications, the public school district may assess your child for an Individual Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan to address their educational needs. It’s probably fair to say that, in most cases, public schools offer a wider range of services for children with special needs.

What do I do if the school environment that I have chosen is not the right one?

Be supportive, upbeat, and positive, and find a more suitable school for your child. It’s important to find the right fit and it’s never too late. To make sure you find the right school next time, you may want to engage an education consultant who can assist you with your school placement needs.

Jane O’Sullivan is a special needs NY education consultant for School Search Solutions.

If you have any Ask the Admissions Expert questions regarding school placement in New York City, please contact