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Public School vs. Christian School



How do Christian schools compare to public schools? If you are trying to decide between public school versus a Christian school then this article can help. Find pros and cons of both Christian and public schools here.

In the United States, our concern with education is so profound that it is mandated with compulsory schooling laws. Even without school choice programs, placing one’s children in private Christian schools rather than the state-run public schools has long been an option. This article looks at these two alternatives, comparing and contrasting their offerings and discussing their pros and cons.

Public School

The public schools are no longer nearly as monolithic as the name can make them sound. In addition to a network of neighborhood schools that draw on attendance of those in the district immediately surrounding them, there are magnet schools•which draw on a population from across zones to create a voluntarily desegregated school environment, charter schools•which are offered the freedom of curriculum innovation and alternate governance in exchange for defined accountability, and alternative schools•which, besides referring to all schools other than neighborhood public schools, in some locales refers to public schools designed to serve special populations such as juvenile offenders, students with emotional and behavioral disorders, schools with a vocational education focus, etc.

In 2006, there were 88,959 “regular” public schools, 1,956 special education focused public schools, 1,240 vocational public schools, and 6,638 alternative schools, most of which were charter and magnet schools. The schools served a total of 49,065,594 students nationwide.

The public schools offer a secular K-12 curriculum, with pre-kindergarten classes offered in some locales. The neighborhood schools are required to serve all children in their zone, regardless of any circumstances, but magnet, charter, and other alternative schools may have entrance requirements of various types. Teachers must be certified by the state.

The schools are supported by state, local, and Federal funds, and, in most cases, the only costs students’ families have to pay is for school supplies, homework projects, and field trips. In some cases, the school may provide alternatives for even these costs, with, for example, a set of calculators that students can use instead of having to make a purchase, and with field trip subsidies. In some cases, families may also purchase some texts for use in school, and in the few public schools that require uniforms, families will have that cost, as well.

Christian School

Christian schools are privately run schools that offer one type of alternative to public education. However, this does not mean that they are all of a piece. They vary in their pedagogical approaches as well as the beliefs with which they are associated. Besides non-sectarian Christian schools, not connected to any particular church, there are quite a number of types of Christian schools associated with a particular sect:

Amish

Church of the Nazarene

Mennonite

Assembly of God

Disciples of Christ

Methodist

Baptist

Episcopal

Other Lutheran

Brethren

Evangelical Lutheran

Pentecostal

Calvinist

Friends

Presbyterian

Church of Christ

Greek Orthodox

Roman Catholic

Church of God

Latter Day Saints

Seventh Day Adventist

Church of God in Christ

Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod

Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran

In 2006, there were 23,548 religious schools in the United States, of which 8,041-more than a third-were Catholic. The breakdown does not tell how many of the remaining 15,507 were Christian (as opposed to Jewish, Islamic, and other religions).

The Christian schools offer a variety of grade groupings, depending on the school, but all find ways to incorporate the traditions, practices, beliefs, and other content of Christianity into the school day. The school day may begin with Chapel and prayer, there may be a specific religion or Bible-study class, as well as the usual academics, and faith may also be alluded to, as appropriate, in other classes. Some, but not all, Christian schools may also be single-sex schools.

Despite the faith-centered nature of Christian schools, whether they are associated with a particular sect of Christianity or more broadly Christian, they may accept students from outside the faith group, and because certain Christian schools may be known for high academic standards, a safe environment, and a disciplined student body, the Christian school may hold appeal for those who are not members of its faith community. Some Christian schools, on the other hand, make belonging to the faith community a prerequisite for admission. There is often a pastor or other minister associated with the school who, along with the principal, assumes responsibility for the students.

Christian schools are privately funded and charge tuition. Because they do not receive state funding, they do not have to employ teachers who are state certified, although their programs may have to undergo state scrutiny, and their teachers may, in fact, be licensed. Because of the differences in governance and requirements, Christian schools, like other private schools, may have more freedom to offer alternative approaches to education.

Christian schools often require the wearing of a school uniform. They often engage in fund-raising efforts to help raise money to offset costs and to provide scholarships to students. Parents sometimes make the choice to send their children to Christian school for K•8, and then enroll them in a public high school. Others choose to continue in sectarian schools for higher education as well.

Sources

National Center for Education Statistics: Search for Private Schools

nces.ed.gov/surveys/pss/privateschoolsearch/

MSN Encarta “Private Elementary and Secondary Schools in the U.S. (Total Number of Schools)” encarta.msn.com/media_701500849/Private_Elementary_and_Secondary_Schools_in_the_U_S_(Total_Number_of_Schools).html

National Center for Education Statistics: Numbers and Types of Public Elementary and Secondary Schools From the Common Core of Data: School Year 2006-07 - First Look nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2009304

Written by Mary Elizabeth