Public and private schools offer different educational experiences for students. The decision on where to place a child should be based on his needs, the family's financial situation, accessibility to scholarships or vouchers, and the school's curriculum. These factors will be different for each student, and families should consider them carefully.
Private schools often offer smaller class sizes than their state school counterparts. For some special needs populations, this is helpful because it allows for more individual interaction with the teacher. However, a smaller private school may also have fewer resources available to work with special needs children, so you must also factor that into placement decisions. In recent years, more private schools have begun catering to special needs populations, and schools focusing on autism spectrum disorders, AD/HD, and specific learning disabilities are more prevalent today.
Private schools, unlike their public counterparts, are not free to the public, and families must consider costs when choosing a private or state school. Tuition for private schools can be costly, and while some offer scholarships or sliding scale fees based on need, many do not. Furthermore, some schools may charge tuition up front, or they may allow parents to pay on a monthly basis. Another cost consideration is that families of private school students must provide their own transportation to and from the school.
Many states offer vouchers for students who have special needs or who attend underperforming schools. Parents must apply for these vouchers and follow regulations and procedures to be approved for the vouchers, and the student must attend a school that is approved by the voucher program. There is controversy regarding voucher programs because they take funding from public institutions and often apply it to private parochial schools.
Another controversy surrounding public versus private schools is the matter of curriculum. Many private schools are also parochial, and students are taught religious beliefs in addition to reading, writing, math and humanities. Some parochial schools have well-known and accredited curriculums, such as A Beka, but others do not, and while regulations are stringent regarding state schools, this is not true of their private counterparts.
A state school setting offers exposure to diverse populations and emulates the real world and future workplace, whereas a private school may limit the exposure that a student has to these experiences. This in turn, limits the chances for students to be exposed to new ideas and form friendships across cultural and racial lines. This will vary greatly, however, because some local areas are more diverse than others.