What’s in a Name? Charter School vs Private School Explained
Choosing a school that’s the right fit for your child can feel overwhelming as there are many aspects to consider. Charter and private schools are two types of education environments that parents and students often explore to figure out what is best for their family. Both private and charter schools typically offer innovative and alternative curricular approaches, but they can vary in design, administration, teacher requirements and results. So, what makes charter and private schools different from each other?
Charter Schools in Georgia
Charter schools are independently operated public schools started by parents, teachers and community members. They have significant freedom and autonomy in aspects like curriculum, programming and staffing which supports innovation and adaptability. Charter schools receive tax dollars as well as private funding, do not charge tuition and typically start with Kindergarten.
The creators of a charter school base its concept on a need in the community – such as a desire for an education focused on science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) or catering to the needs of gifted or high-risk students. Next, the group petitions for a contract or “charter” with an authorizing group such as a nonprofit organization, government agency or university. These organizations hold the school accountable to the standards outlined in their contract.
Charter schools must follow the basic curricular requirements of the state they are in but don’t have the same regulations from local school boards that apply to public schools. The Georgia Charter Schools Association (GCSA) oversees most Georgia’s charter schools which had 86,549 students in the 2017-18 school year. That’s nearly five percent of the state’s total student population. These students typically enjoy smaller classes than their public school counterparts.
Private Schools in Georgia
Private schools are independently-run organizations funded through tuition and other sources such as religious groups, grants, donations and endowments. Much like charter schools, private schools are founded by people looking to fill certain education needs in the community. However, private schools have more autonomy in creating a school vision, mission and plan because they are not publicly-funded.
In the 2018-19 school year, there are 867 private schools in Georgia which serve 155,658 children. Like children in charter schools, private school students typically enjoy smaller class sizes.
Private school approaches to education vary. Curriculum can be tied to religious backgrounds or can be independent. School administrators set admission criteria and usually require entrance exams. Due to tuition and independent contributions, private schools often have more funding than charter schools to ensure specialized instructional spaces and programs. In the Atlanta area, most private schools are members of the Georgia Independent School Association (GISA). Schools in this organization must admit students without regard to race, color, ethnicity or national origin to all the rights, privileges and programs available within the school. GISA private school members include:
- 10 private schools in East Cobb
- 16 private schools in Roswell, Alpharetta, and Milton (North Atlanta)
Prioritize What Matters to Your Family
In choosing a school, parents must prioritize what is important to them for their children’s education. In addition to considering the type of school such as charter or private, parents should evaluate a school’s approach to learning, teaching style, class size, campus amenities, specialized programs and regular communication with teachers, to name a few important factors. Then, they should visit schools, talk with teachers and students, and trust what they feel is best for their children.
Interested in learning more about High Meadows? Learn what makes us one of the top private schools near East Cobb, Roswell, North Atlanta and beyond.