The St. Louis and Kansas City school districts are, for many, two glaring examples of the need for school choice and competition. Both school districts have received failing ratings from the State of Missouri, and both are about to be dismantled, if state senator Jane Cunningham has her way. She has filed a bill with the legislature that will close the Kansas City School District, which has lost its accreditation due to poor performance, and make the school districts around it slice it up and run the schools there. In St. Louis, because the surrounding districts are also having troubles of their own, her bill would permit the operation of charter schools in the city and allow students in the city to also transfer to suburban schools, if there is room in those schools. In any unaccredited school district in the state, students could take their tax credit for education with them, using it to pay tuition at private or parochial schools. While the teachers’ unions in both cities are complaining, Sen. Cunningham responds that “our goal is to make sure every child in the state of Missouri gets a quality, accredited education” (Young).
Taking public funds to pay for tuition at private schools is a popular answer for conservatives, many of whom want to take the public school system apart and dismantle the teachers’ unions. However, some of the advocates for these changes automatically think that moving to a private school would be beneficial for all. The results from standardized testing and other metrics may suggest otherwise. For example, public schools have to accept all students who live in their boundaries, which means that they have to take in students from all effort and ability levels, and have to add specialized services for special education students (GreatSchools Staff). As a result, all public schools have to devote staff and funding to serve students who, normally, would not be admitted to a private school.
Assuming that all private schools are much more successful than all public schools would be a mistake. There are public schools at all points of the quality spectrum, and the same goes for private school. There many private schools that produce students who are ready to go to rigorous universities and succeed, but there are also private schools that turn out graduates who are woefully unprepared, because of the lack of curricular oversight (Public vs. Private Schools). Also, many times data from private schools will skew higher, because the students there come from backgrounds that have prepared them to be more self-sufficient (Clayton). If you also figure in variables like socioeconomic status, while the Catholic schools run by holy orders still finish higher in achievement than other private and public schools, the other private schools are all over the spectrum (Cloud). The bottom line is that, while private schools often offer a more sheltered social setting, they can also keep students from being prepared for all of the diversity out in the real world. The cost of tuition can also make it more difficult for families to make ends meet, which can harm quality of life. Before enrolling your children in a private school, these are the variables to consider.
Clayton, V. (2005). School debate: Public vs. private. MSNBC 2 August 2005. Web.
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Cloud, J. (2007). Are private schools really better? Time 10 October 2007. Web. Retrieved
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Young, V. (2012). Dramatic school plan offered for failing Missouri districts. St. Louis
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