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School Time! Choosing a Private School

One of the biggest questions parents typically consider after what to name their child is how to educate them. Is the local public school a good option or is a better option a private education? It’s a big decision.

Most parents start with a preschool education or at-home learning prior to beginning kindergarten, and then it’s time to get serious. California's compulsory education law requires children ages 6-18 years attend public, full-time day school.

Some public school systems offer charter schools or independent study programs. Those options require enrollment in the public school system and follow compulsory attendance requirements. A charter school is a public school offering instruction to students in kindergarten through grade 12, and typically has the oversight of the public school board or county board of education.

Alternatives to public school

Parents who choose not to send their children to public school have several options for alternative education. In lieu of a public education, children may legally attend a private, full-time day school, so long as they are enrolled in a full-time private school where they are taught in study and recitation for at least three hours a day for 175 days each calendar year in the several branches of study required to be taught in the public schools.

According to the California Department of Education, a private school is “a private business or nonprofit entity that offers or conducts full-time instruction with a full complement of subjects at the elementary, middle, or high school level.” Private schools function outside the jurisdiction of the CDE and most state education regulations, meaning they do not participate in the state’s educational accountability system, but instead are directly accountable to students and their parents or guardians, based on the terms of the private school enrollment contract.

Students with disabilities may attend a nonpublic nonsectarian school, which provides services to students with exceptional needs through an Individualized Education Program. Tuition to these schools is often publicly funded. Other private schools, such as boarding schools or faith-based schools are also an option, as well as home-based instruction. According to state law, a full-time private school may include a parent instructing his or her own child at home if the home school meets the criteria applied to other private schools.

In addition to brick-and-mortar and home schools, there are also online “virtual” education options. Some of the online schools offer interaction through online face-to-face classes and/or in-person meetings with teachers. The online “cyber” schools are not provided oversight by the CDE.

The nuts and bolts

In the state of California, the Department of Education has no authority to regulate or monitor private schools or a private education beyond the nonpublic nonsectarian school certification and the CDE does not license private schools, however some of the state’s education codes do apply to private schools.

In addition, according to the CDE, a private school is considered a business or nonprofit entity and, as such, is required to comply with requirements imposed by the jurisdiction, county, city, or other locality in which it is located, such as zoning, health and safety codes, fire codes, or other local ordinances.Further, the state does not require private school teachers to possess a valid state teaching credential, although many private school teachers do possess current California teaching credentials.

When it comes to performance, the state Department of Education doesn’t evaluate private schools and offers no ranking system for them. Only public schools are ranked by Academic Performance Index. Finally, there are no state offering public funding for private school tuition, except where a student with a disability is placed in a non-public school by a local school district.

How to choose a private school

Deciding on a private education can be confusing. There are many options out there. The state Department of Education offers an online Private School Directory, which includes detailed information about registered private schools with six or more students. That list can be found at Also on the website is a searchable directory offering contact information for private schools across the state. Once you settle on a school—or two or five—the best thing to do is to meet with school officials to determine if it is a good fit.

Here are some questions to ask:

• How is student achievement is measured and how do teachers use that information?

• How many of the students who start school finish there?

• What is the percentage of students who go on to higher education?

• What does your curriculum include?

• How is discipline handled?

• Are there opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities?

• How much are parents expected to volunteer inside/outside the classroom?

• Is the school accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges?


We asked local private schools about the benefits of choosing their schools. Here's what they said:

KCFM: What are the benefits of a private education?

Kelli Michaud, Principal of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish School: A Catholic Education is the best gift you could give your child. Catholic schools are focused on high student engagement and learning in a loving, Christ-centered environment. Students have the opportunity to develop as a whole person- spiritually, morally and academically. When Christ is at the center of learning, students thrive and flourish; everything has more meaning. Our beautiful Catholic traditions are celebrated and used to enhance student learning across the curriculum.

Linda Reed, Director, Readyland Preschool at Heritage Christian: We have smaller classrooms, a well-rounded education focused on the whole child, and we pay attention to details.

KCFM: What is one thing many parents don't know about sending their children to private school?

Kelli Michaud: Parents need to know that Catholic Schools stay current with best teaching methodologies, including state-of-the-art curriculum, technology, and professional development. Our teachers spend a tremendous amount of time developing personalized learning plans for each student. OLPH school has a brand new science lab, STEM lab with 3-D printers, iPad access for students; we even provide the Rosetta Stone Language Software for every student through 8th grade.

Linda Reed: Parents will be pleased to see that their child is getting the best education possible. Faculty and staff strive to make each and every individual student successful and prepared for life. Curriculum is carefully selected and taught with the goal that students grow personally and academically. Safety is also an important part of our private Christian school. Our desire is to see students grow closer in a personal relationship with God in a non-judgmental environment.

KCFM: What can a child expect to find your school that he may find exciting?

Kelli Michaud: Students will find the opportunity to develop their leadership skills and grow their talents. They will find the curriculum exciting and hands-on, with teachers who are loving and committed to their success in all areas.

Linda Reed: We have many fun co-curricular activities. We have a sports program, music program, Robotics Club, and so much more. We are a family here at Heritage and that makes our programs unique and exciting.

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Tags: Education, Featured Story, Preschool, Tweens & Teens

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