Private or Public Education?

Recently on WNYC radio, Brian Lehrer featured a panel of authors and consultants discussing the choices that a parent must go through when caught between the accessibility of the public school system and the exclusivity of the private schools of New York. The panel consisted of Clara Hemphill, author of New York City’s Best Public High Schools. A Parents’ Guide, Catherine Hausman, author of The Manhattan Family Guide to Private Schools and Robin Aronow, psychotherapist and educational consultant.

The panel discussed the many different issues in the debate of private vs. public school. Topics such as financial and social considerations as well as cultural issues were included. Private schools are unattainable to many families because of their high tuition. However, as the speakers pointed out, scholarships and financial aid are available. One of the callers was concerned with the lack of diversity within the private school system. This was confirmed by the panel. However, they noted that many private schools are making an effort to introduce a multicultural element into the student body.

As the panel pointed out, the disadvantage to families that must rely upon the public school system is that there are few choices within the district, while a private school student has no such constraints. The advantages of private schools is that they have the facilities to concentrate on the student as an individual and “make sure the child is well rounded,” according to Aronow.

Community service has always been an aspect exclusive to private schools, but recently more and more, public schools are requiring it as well. In public schools, parental control of the curriculum and administration is at a minimum, but at a private school, parents have greater control of the system. The speakers indicated that some public schools lack leadership especially because their principals and administrators are paid poorly.

The panelists agreed that private schools seem to be the best environment for a young child who needs individual supervision, whereas public schools require the child to have a certain degree of independence and self sufficiency. Parochial schools, on the other hand, seem to be a good balance between the two because the tuition is less than the majority of the private schools.