Catholic School vs. Public School. What’s Better for Your Child?

Which school your child should go to is one of the most important decisions a parent will make.

For parents in the San Diego area, there are numerous choices available. Everyone, from grandparents to neighbors, will have an opinion on what you should do. How can you tell whether a private, parochial or public school is the right place for your child?

If you are weighing the decision of Catholic school vs. public school, there are several issues you must keep in mind. Look at the pros and cons of each option as you make this important decision.

1. Class Sizes

If you are trying to decide between a public and private school for your child, one of the biggest differences you will find between these choices is the class size.

In a Catholic or other private school, the average class size is twenty students.  In public schools, it is more likely to be about thirty students.

Most educational experts agree that small classes are better. Students get more attention and are less likely to slip through the administrative cracks. Teachers get to know their students by name and understand their individual strengths and weaknesses.

Experts do disagree on whether the expense of private education is worth the cost for all students. Students who are self-motivated can thrive in public classrooms. Some families simply cannot afford private school tuition.

However, some students benefit from being in a room with fewer students.  If your child has special needs or is extremely shy, they may need a small, nurturing atmosphere. A Catholic school may be the answer.

2. Individual Attention

As noted above, smaller classrooms enable teachers in Catholic and other private schools to really get to know their students. They quickly learn who needs extra help in reading, who always raises their hand, and who gets along with who.

They also find out about factors affecting the student’s progress, such as problems at home, illness or bullying. When they are better informed about the circumstances each student faces, they are better equipped to develop solutions.

Some students absorb information more quickly than others. Some need more hands-on experiential learning, while others do better by listening. When they can get individual attention from their teachers, most students are better able to find ways to excel.

3. Cost

In 2018, the average private school tuition in the San Diego area was $8,395 annually for elementary schools and $17,088 for high schools. For many families, that represents a significant cost.

Each family must decide for themselves whether it is worth it for them to make this kind of financial investment. The decision may be influenced by each parent’s income, how many kids are in the family, and each child’s interests and talents, amongst many other factors.

There are ways to lessen the financial impact of private school tuition. Some faith-based schools are less expensive than other private schools. Many private schools have scholarship programs for eligible students as well.

4. Spirituality

If it is important to your family that your child incorporates religion into their daily lives a Catholic school may be right for you. Some members of other Christian faiths send their kids to Catholic schools because they like the spiritual grounding provided by a faith-based education.

Public schools are forbidden by law from incorporating religious beliefs into their curriculum. The Constitution requires a strict separation of church and state, and public schools are an extension of the state. If you feel that you would prefer to be in charge of your child’s instruction on religious matters, then a private school may be the best choice for you.

Unlike public schools, many faith-based schools will have a daily prayer in the classroom or a chapel period during the day. There may be Bibles or religious art or crucifixes displayed. Catholic schools may also refuse to incorporate certain teachings into their curriculum, such as sex education that discusses birth control.

5. Location

Logistics are important when you are deciding on schools. In California, traffic is a fact of life! Sometimes you need to consider how long it will take your child to get to school, and how they will get home.

Public schools are obligated to provide transport to enrolled students. On the other hand, some private schools offer transportation services for students while others expect families to make their own arrangements. Parents who work outside the home sometimes must rely on carpools or babysitters to drop off and pick up the kids.

6. Extra-Curricular Activities

The budgets for public schools are often impacted by the local economy and tax rolls. Sadly, in some regions in California, the poor economy means that some public schools have to cut programs like music, art, and athletics from their schedules.

The benefits of music, art, drama, and sports on the development of a child are manifold. These activities help children appreciate the arts, develop confidence and dexterity, and learn how to handle a myriad of social interactions.

If your child wants to explore these extracurricular activities, look at private schools which include these activities in their schedules. You can also seek schools that offer vibrant afterschool activities, so kids can pursue their interests in these nonacademic but vitally important areas.

8. College Prospects

In public schools, guidance counselors often are responsible for large numbers of students. They may provide college counseling but also work with kids with emotional, disciplinary, or other issues.

Private schools often emphasize college preparation. In addition to college counseling, they may offer assistance with standardized test prep or host college recruiters for information sessions.

If you are eager for your child to have the benefit of a vigorous college application process, a private or Catholic school may be appropriate for you.

Catholic School vs. Public School: Choose What is Right for Your Family

While parents may feel pressure from friends, neighbors and other family members about the pros and cons of different kinds of education, each family must make these decisions based on their individual circumstances and goals.  If you are trying to decide between Catholic school vs. public school, discuss all the aspects with your child and your partner to see which one may be best for all of you.

For more information on one option for Catholic education in the San Diego area, contact us today.