Catholic Schools vs. Public Schools: Is Free Education Good Enough?

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Difference between Catholic School and Public School

Catholic schools have traditionally had the edge over public schools, at least as far as standards of education were concerned. On the downside, Catholic schools also tended to be far more expensive than their state funded counterparts. But this isn't necessarily the case today, as many public schools all over the country have raised their educational standards considerably and many Catholic schools have lowered their prices to levels more competitive to those charged by public schools as well. Let's see how the two measure up today.

Role In Education And Beyond

Catholic schools have the advantage–or disadvantage, depending on how you look at it–of providing a theological component to the education of a child. If you are a Catholic, this of course would be a desirable trait. However, parents belonging to other faiths may not be so accepting of the added theological teachings of such schools.

It may also be argued that Catholic schools impose a limited sphere of experience and exposure, since most of the students come from similar backgrounds. With public schools on the other hand, students are exposed to a wider variety of students from different backgrounds. Some claim that this gives public school students a more accurate perception of how social relationships work in the "real world".

Cost Concerns

As most parents of Catholic school students are aware of, such educational institutions entail costs other than the tuition. These costs include uniforms, mandatory fund raiser activity, athletics equipment, and possibly even transportation. These costs are offset somewhat by the higher level of education provided by Catholic schools, although many public schools have since caught up.

Public schools that offer basic education programs charge about $3,900 for every student on average, while Catholic schools on average charge about $3,584. Given these figures, it would appear that Catholic schools are in fact cheaper than public schools, although there are various associated costs to consider as well, some of which were mentioned previously.

Functions And Structure

In Catholic schools, it is the responsibility of the principal to supervise and allocate the budget. It is also the principal’s role to develop the curriculum in conjunction with the teachers and to make decisions with regard to hiring teachers and other key personnel. In public schools on the other hand, principals serve a role that is more akin to that of a coordinator between the head office and the teacher.

Summary

Catholic Schools

  • Offers a theological component to education
  • Usually comes with additional costs such as uniforms, athletics fees, and transportation
  • Generally has fewer students in each class
  • May bring about a feeling of seclusion in the student
  • Many students of Catholic schools tend to be less extroverted
  • Average cost of about $3,600 per student

Public Schools

  • No tuition since they are funded by the state
  • Generally have more students in each class
  • Exposes students to a more "real world" setting, with students from different backgrounds
  • Public schools comparable to Catholic schools actually cost slightly more on average

Which type of school has better parent relations?
  • Catholic School
  • Public School
 
 

Discuss It: comments 2

  • Guest
  • Jenn wrote on May 2011

I have found that there are systemic issues with both schools that you don't touch on. For instance you will spend more time fundraising in a catholic school. All extra curricular activities are sponsored and your children will know who is better of financially. So although everyone wears a uniform. There is still a clear class system. Also if you have a special needs child the Public school has all of the resources. Even speech therapists are brought in from the public sector to help in the Catholic school. Something school voucher programs are not addressing. The other difference is the bus system does not generally exist in a Catholic school environment. Now that many states are allowing students to use state money to attend private schools. I think you will see class sizes go up in private schools. So that will be a moot point. In my experience I also learned that the programs were vastly different. Not just the religion aspect. While our Catholic school offered Spanish classes, they had no library, art room or playground. There is no clear cut "better" school. You need to take a hard look at your child's needs and choose the right one for them.

  • Guest
  • Thomas Currey wrote on January 2013

I'm afraid that the information in this article is not correct. Average public school education cost in the neighborhood of $10K per student. Catholic schools average $1.5K. At least this is what my research finds. There are other aspects that are important to look at also - compare the drop out rate of public vs. Catholic schools: public schools students now at near 40% while Catholic schools less than 10%. Also, interesting that the Catholic school near me has a 95% of their students that go on to higher education, this may not be the same across the whole nation, but I would suggest that it is 2x time the rate for public schools. I have also never found reports "nation wide" that Catholic schools have any "gang" activity or drug problems. Parent participation is extremely high in catholic schools. The list goes on and on as to the benefits of Catholic over public school education.....as a little impartial research will confim....

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