Used by permission from www.schoolchoice.org
Published: October 30, 2023
By: Used by permission from www.schoolchoice.org
What do Lady Gaga, Denzel Washington and Ariana Grande have in common? Well, for one thing, they all attended private school at some point during K-12.
Today, there are thousands of private schools across America. Private schools offer students distinctive learning cultures, from Catholic schools to independent schools with special curricula. But private education is nothing new. Private or independent schools in America date back to before the founding of the United States.
What you need to know about private schools.
Private schools are by nature schools of choice. No student is ever automatically assigned to a private school by any district or agency. Private schools are rooted in the belief that families should be able to choose their child’s learning environment. And, they should have options that match their family’s worldview, religious values or education philosophy.
“Often the schools in the inner-city are overcrowded and don’t answer the needs of each student. Our school is intimate, and family-oriented, and children are comfortable here. We have a very low tuition for an independent school, but many students are from low-income families and are assisted by the Children’s Scholarship Fund,” says Lois Gregory, private school founder in the Bronx, NY.
Private schools may be more affordable than you think. Many states have scholarship programs, which can defray the costs of private schools. Often, these scholarships prioritize students from low or middle-income families or students with special needs. In addition to state-funded scholarship programs, most individual private schools also provide need-based or academic scholarships to students. Community organizations sometimes offer scholarships as well, as do national organizations such as the Children’s Scholarship Fund and ACE Scholarships.
Private education costs vary widely by state and school; Catholic parish schools tend to have the lowest tuition costs.
FAQ about Private Schools
What are the differences between private schools and public schools? Are private schools better?
Public schools are always tuition-free, while private schools generate their own funding through tuition, private grants and fundraising. We’ll cover options to lower the cost of private schools later in this guide.
Private schools can set their own admissions standards. Meanwhile, public charter schools must accept all students, and traditional public schools must accept all students within a designated geographic region, depending on the state.
As to which one is better, that depends on your student! Getting as much information as possible is essential to determine the best option for your child.
Where can I find private school rankings or ratings?
You can find private school rankings or ratings in a few places. GreatSchools.org has school profiles for most private schools in the country, where you can find general information, student demographics, and parent reviews. Niche.com is another site where you can find information about a private school. Their school profiles have information related to academics, diversity, teachers, college prep, clubs and activities and sports. PrivateSchoolReview.com also hosts profiles of different private schools, sharing information such as school overview, student body data, academics and faculty information, finances and admission data, and even a list of related schools to help you search.
Just remember, reviews aren’t everything! You can make the best decision for your child by visiting schools or speaking with school staff.
Do private schools have to follow state standards?
Each state sets its own rules for private schools. Many of them require private schools to be accredited, licensed by the state or approved by the state. Private schools also follow state rules for safety, health, building codes, and a minimum number of school days required.
What are tax-credit scholarships?
According to EdChoice.org, “Tax-credit scholarships allow taxpayers to receive full or partial tax credits when they donate to nonprofits that provide private school scholarships.”
Currently, 22 states including Alabama have tax-credit scholarship programs either active or launching soon. In each state, the legislature sets a cap on the tax credits that can be distributed. So, the size and availability of tax-credit scholarships vary by state.
Besides tax-credit scholarships, some states offer tax credits and tax deductions to help families afford private school.
How to Choose a Private School
We encourage parents to follow the seven steps outlined in the schoolchoiceroadmap.org for school search matters. This thorough, understandable process is designed to help all families identify learning environments that meet their children’s needs. These steps include:
1. Explore your private school options:
The first step you’ll want to take is researching private school options near you. You can use our free Schools Near Me tool to locate private schools near your zip code. Private schools are incredibly diverse, so chances are you’ll be able to consider a variety of religious and non-religious schools. To learn whether private school students in your state are eligible for special education services, you can explore the state rules we’ve compiled in “How to Continue Your IEP, Even if You Start Homeschooling.”
If there’s a private school that interests you, reach out for more information. You can also take a tour or set up a phone call with the school administration. Here are some questions you can ask or consider:
- What is the school’s particular focus?
- How much is tuition?
- Does the school provide any transportation?
- Is after-school care an option?
- What is the size of the classes?
- What sports or extracurricular activities are available?
3. Ask about scholarships:
Your first step toward identifying scholarships is to ask the private school you’re considering. Schools are often happy to share information about scholarship opportunities in the local community. You can also check our list below to learn if there are state-run scholarships available in your state.
Some national organizations like the Children’s Scholarship Fund and ACE Scholarships also offer K-12 scholarships. Each year, the Children’s Scholarship Fund and its partner organizations award millions in scholarship awards to students across 19 states.
Once your questions have been answered, you can apply to the private school if you’d like. Depending on the school, your child may have special entrance requirements, like essays, an interview or a test.
5. Get started:
If your child is accepted into the private school, let your previous school know that you will be transferring. You can also make a request if there is anything you need from their end. As a parent/legal guardian, you can ask the school for a copy of your student’s educational record. If your student has additional services, such as an intervention plan, Individualized Education Plan, 504 plan, or medical response plan, make sure that a copy of this information gets sent to the new school as well!
Private School Options Near Me
Many private schools and nonprofit organizations offer scholarships for students. In addition, 31 states offer official programs that provide either a scholarship to a private school or private school tuition assistance for families. Of these states, 21 states, including Alabama, offer official scholarship programs.
SPECIFIC TO ALABAMA
There are more than 450 private schools across the state of Alabama. The average tuition for private schools in the state is $7,680 per year for elementary schools and $8,199 for high schools.
While tuition may seem like a barrier, Alabama has two state programs to support families who wish to attend private schools. As of 2023, children whose household income is below 250 percent of the federal poverty level, as well as students with Individualized Education Plans, can apply to the Education Scholarship Program. This program provides tax-credit scholarships of up to $10,000 for students to attend a public or private school of their choice. While the program prioritizes students at “priority schools” (schools with a D or F on their state report card), a limited number of students not assigned to priority schools can receive scholarships. Additionally, the Alabama Accountability Act allows families in priority schools to claim an income tax credit for the cost of moving their child to a different public or qualifying private school.
Learn more at Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund and Private School Review: Alabama.
Used by permission. Originally printed in its entirety at schoolchoiceweek.com/private-schools/.
NOTE: This is not an endorsement of any particular school choice initiative, but information provided via this organization offers ways to provide a private education for your child, if you desire one, and numerous resources in that decision-making process.