Weighing the Choice Between Public vs. Private School\r\n\r\nAlmost as soon as their children are born, most parents will face a big decision that will impact not only their kids, but also their finances: Should they send their kids to a public or a private school? And, is private school worth it?\r\n\r\nThere\u2019s no right answer to this question. It\u2019s always going to be a personal decision that depends on where you live, what your financial situation is, and what\u2019s best for your child. However, there are advantages and drawbacks to both public and private schools that you should consider when weighing this choice.\r\n\r\nIn this article, we\u2019ll address this question for K-12 schooling. Stay tuned for a future article on public vs. private when it comes to college. \r\n\r\nConsider the Cost of Private School\r\nIt\u2019ll come as no surprise that the first thing many families consider when weighing a public vs. a private school education is cost. Public schools are mostly paid for by local real estate taxes, so with the exception of fees for some extracurricular activities, it doesn\u2019t cost anything to send your kids there. \r\n\r\nPrivate schools, on the other hand, receive no government funding \u2014 they are supported primarily by tuition paid by parents who send their kids to the school. The average annual cost of a private school education in the U.S. is $10,676, according to PrivateSchoolReview.com. Broken down further, the cost of private elementary school averages $9,638 per year while the cost of private high school averages $14,522 per year.\r\n\r\nHowever, these costs vary widely from one state to the next. For example, private school tuition averages $3,565 per year in Nebraska but it\u2019s $23,881 in Connecticut \u2014 or almost seven times higher.\r\n\r\nIf you are considering sending your child(ren) to a private school, it\u2019s generally a good idea to talk to a financial advisor to make sure that the expense will fit in with your overall financial plan. While private schools can offer some great benefits, they are also expensive, and it\u2019s important to remember that it\u2019s almost never a good idea to sacrifice long-term goals like your retirement for education expenses. After all, you can\u2019t take out a loan to pay for retirement, and retiring comfortably is one of the best things you can do for your children financially. \r\n\r\nWhat Are You Buying?\r\nSo, what exactly are you buying when you send your kids to a private school that they won\u2019t receive at a public school? This is a subjective question and the answer varies depending on many different factors.\r\n\r\nFor example, some parents believe it\u2019s important for their children to receive education in the context of their religion or spiritual beliefs. If this is important to you, you\u2019ll need to send your kids to a private school because the courts have generally ruled that it\u2019s unconstitutional for public schools to include religious teachings in their curricula.\r\n\r\nSimilarly, private schools can offer specialized curricula that focuses on areas such as theater, music or the arts while public schools tend to focus more on core education classes. Also, many private high schools offer a wide range of AP courses and International Baccalaureate and gifted programs to help students prepare for college. Many public schools also offer theater, music and college prep courses, but budget cuts and state mandated testing can sometimes limit these offerings.\r\n\r\nQuality of Education\r\nIn some areas of the country, parents opt for private schools because they provide a higher quality education than public schools. But you can\u2019t assume that every private school will offer a better education than a comparable public school just because it\u2019s \u201cprivate\u201d and costs money to attend. \r\n\r\nFor example, the percentage of new teachers is higher in private (16 percent) vs. public (11 percent) schools, and the percentage of teachers with master\u2019s degrees is higher in public (48 percent) vs. private (36 percent) schools, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).\r\n\r\nSome of the best high schools in the country are public schools and boast strong graduation rates and standardized test scores. So, it\u2019s not always true that the quality of an education is better at a private school, especially if you live in an area where the public school system is strong. In order to evaluate how good the public schools are in your area, there are a few things you can do:\r\n\r\n\r\nReference your state department of education. Several states rank their school districts and have this information publicly available. \r\nTalk to local real estate agents. Real estate agents often have a good sense of what schools and school districts are the best in your area as good schools tend to equal higher profits for them. Whether or not you are planning to buy or sell your home, local realtors can be a good resource.\r\nThe National Association for the Education of Young Children. This organization has a wealth of information on how to choose the best school for your child.\r\n\r\n\r\nThere are, however, some areas where private schools often offer a quality benefit. A big one is class sizes and student-to-teacher ratios. The average class size in public schools is 25 students and the student-to-teacher ratio is 16.1 students per teacher, according to the NCES. This compares to 19 students and a student-to-teacher ratio of 12.2 students per teacher in private schools.\r\n\r\nData compiled by the NCES reveals that private high school students score an average of 3.1 points higher on the ACT test than public school students. Private school students in elementary and middle school also scored higher on standardized tests than public school students. For example, eighth grade private school students scored 18 points higher in math tests than public school students, and fourth grade private school students score 15 points higher in reading tests than public school students.\r\n\r\nWhere Will Your Kids Thrive?\r\nFinally, many parents choose private schools simply because they think their child is more likely to thrive in the private school environment where classes are smaller and there\u2019s an overall more intimate environment. This is especially true for kids who may have had trouble fitting in socially or were even bullied at a public school.\r\n\r\nWhen making the public vs. private school decision, it\u2019s important not to be swayed by where other people are sending their kids. Some families feel social or peer pressure to send their kids to a private school even if it might not be the best choice for them.\r\n\r\nYou and your spouse need to make the right choice based on what\u2019s best for your family, not your friends or relatives. Carefully consider the pros and cons of each option so you can make an informed decision. \r\n\r\nA Personal Capital advisor would be happy to help you weigh this choice from a financial perspective.\r\n\r\nDisclaimer: The information on this website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a complete description of our investment services or performance. No part of this site nor the links contained therein is a solicitation or offer to sell securities or investment advisory services, except where applicable in states where we are registered, or where an exemption or exclusion from such registration exists. Third party data is obtained from sources believed to be reliable. However, Personal Capital Advisors Corporation cannot guarantee that data\u2019s currency, accuracy, timeliness, completeness or fitness for any particular purpose. Certain sections of this commentary may contain forward-looking statements that are based on our reasonable expectations, estimate, projections and assumptions. Forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance and involve certain risks and uncertainties, which are difficult to predict. Past performance is not a guarantee of future return, nor is it necessarily indicative of future performance. Keep in mind investing involves risk. The value of your investment will fluctuate over time and you may gain or lose money.