Private vs. Public vs. Charter: Choosing the Right School System for Your Child

If your child is starting kindergarten soon, you may be facing a difficult and confusing choice of whether they should enroll in a public or private school. However, those two aren’t always the only two options, as charter schools may also be a factor in your search. Choosing the right school system and school for your child is crucial in setting them up for long term success, and with so many options you might be feeling a bit confused about where to start and what the differences are between each type of school.  

In this brief article, the team at our Clearwater, FL Christian school, Lakeside Christian School, has shared some insights into the differences between public, private, and charter schools and how to know which is right for your unique child. 


What is a Charter School?

A charter school is defined by the state of Florida as: 

“…public schools that operate under a performance contract, or a “charter” which frees them from many regulations created for traditional public schools while holding them accountable for academic and financial results. The charter contract between the charter school governing board and the sponsor details the school’s mission, program, goals, students served, methods of assessment and ways to measure success.”

In other words, a charter school is a public school that is operating under the oversight of a governing board rather than the local school board. This sounds similar to private schools because of the oversight of a more localized board of directors, but there are still many of the same standards as a regular public school. 

Charter schools were created to give greater school choice to parents in the state of Florida, and there are certainly good aspects of a charter school. For example, a charter school may have slightly smaller class sizes because students must apply for admission and because charter schools have the ability to target specific age levels. Furthermore, parents may be invited to have a greater level of involvement at a charter school. However, because charter schools operate under different rules than regular public schools, there is a greater lack of regulation and the promise of being in a highly graded school may not be a reality. 

Also of note: Charter schools may have a specific focus. For example, the charter school may serve at-risk students, or offer a specialized curriculum or core academic program, provide early intervention programs, or serve exceptional education students. This is different from private schools in Clearwater, FL that take a more holistic approach to learning. 

Another important thing to note is that charter schools are not the same as magnet schools. Magnet schools are public schools with a particular theme or academic focus, such as mathematics, science, technology, business, or performing arts.


What is a Private School in Florida?

Private schools differ from public schools and charter schools because they are not publicly funded and can therefore govern themselves for the most part. For example, Christian schools in Clearwater, FL can control their class sizes and are exempt from the laws separating church and education. 

For a more technical definition, the state of Florida’s Department of Education states:

“A private school is defined in Section 1002.01(2), Florida Statutes, as “an individual, association, co-partnership, or corporation or department, division, or section of such organizations, that designates itself as an educational center that includes kindergarten or a higher grade” and is below the college level.”

Private schools can focus on a specific area, for example they may be limited to elementary, middle, or high school. However, in many cases, private schools are able to accommodate all grade levels, giving students the opportunity to learn in the same environment for their whole education. This can be beneficial for establishing close relationships with friends and teachers while also fostering growth.


What’s the Difference Between Public, Private, and Charter Schools in Florida?

Now that we’ve discussed the definitions of private and charter schools, we can dive into what makes these options so different. Of course, all schools have the needs of students at their core and as the anchor for their values, but there are some major differences. 

For example, public schools often run into major problems with budget cuts and running short-staffed. They may rely on a revolving door of teachers and substitutes who don’t know the school very well. Additionally, public schools often fall victim to large class sizes which can hold students back from the individual attention they need to learn. 

Additionally, charter schools may face the same budgetary restrictions. However, unlike public schools, they are less likely to run into issues dealing with rules passed down by the superintendent. 

Private schools stand out because they are not subject to the whims of politics and are able to dedicate themselves to the education of their students. Class sizes can be significantly smaller and the pool of substitute teachers comes from well known and fully vetted staff.


Should My Child Go to Public, Charter, or Private School?

Now is the big question: should my child go to public, charter, or private school? It all depends on the student and their individual needs. 

In many cases, parents do not believe private school is a choice due to the cost of tuition, however, there are several scholarships made available through the state of Florida to help empower parents with more choices. A Clearwater private school does not have to be out of reach just because of finances. 

Many parents choose a private school for the aspect of stability, community, and a more personalized and individualized education. Although your child may thrive in public schools or charter schools, they’ll have access to faith-based learning and top-notch college prep in a private school. 

Lakeside Christian School wants to help you make the right decision for your family. With over 40 years of experience and a diverse student body of children who participate both in virtual learning and/or an in-person setting, Lakeside Christian School is built on the biblical principles of loving God and loving others. This care is demonstrated through the warm, respectful relationships among staff and between staff and students, and uses a tailored approach to your child’s education. If you’re interested in learning more about how we challenge all of our students to achieve their academic and personal goals, give us a call. 


If you would like to learn more about Lakeside Christian School, a Clearwater, FL Christian school, please give us a call at (727) 239-7808 or schedule a tour of our campus.