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Public, private, and charter schools: How they compare

By Understood Team

Choosing a school can be tough. It’s not always easy to understand the options outside of public schools. Public, charter , and private schools  offer different benefits for kids.

Here’s an overview of each, and the key things to know for kids who learn and think differently.

Overview

Public schools

  • Run by local school districts

  • Funded by the public

  • Must follow all state and federal education laws

Charter schools

  • Independent public schools

  • Funded by the public or private donors

  • Must follow education laws, but have freedom from some rules

Private schools

  • Run by private organizations

  • Funded privately

  • Little to no government oversight

Key differences

Kids must apply to attend:

  • Public schools: No. But some public magnet schools may require applications.

  • Charter schools: Yes.

  • Private schools: Yes.

It’s free to attend:

  • Public schools: Yes.

  • Charter schools: Yes.

  • Private schools: No.

May reject kids because they have , or learn and think differently:

  • Public schools: No.

  • Charter schools: No. Charters also can’t “counsel out” or discourage kids from attending.

  • Private schools: No. But private schools can reject applicants for almost any reason.

Required by law to provide special education services and IEPs :

  • Public schools: Yes.

  • Charter schools: Yes. But charters may not have the same specialists or services as traditional public schools.

  • Private schools: No. However, a local school district may provide services to a child in private school through a service plan .

Required by law to provide classroom accommodations :

  • Public schools: Yes.

  • Charter schools: Yes.

  • Private schools: Yes. But the required accommodations are more limited.

Required by law to provide 504 plans :

  • Public schools: Yes.

  • Charter schools: Yes.

  • Private schools: No.

General education teachers must be state-certified:

  • Public schools: Yes.

  • Charter schools: Maybe. It depends on the laws of your state.

  • Private schools: Maybe. It depends on the laws of your state.

Special education teachers must be state-certified:

  • Public schools: Yes.

  • Charter schools: Maybe. It depends on the laws of your state.

  • Private schools: No.

Specializes in teaching kids who learn and think differently:

Students are required by law to meet state academic standards :

  • Public schools: Yes.

  • Charter schools: Yes.

  • Private schools: No.

  • Public schools: Yes.

  • Charter schools: Yes.

  • Private schools: No.

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