Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Are all Private Schools the same?

Something on the radio caught my attention. The speaker was raging against non-public education and throughout the interview, lumped all non-public schools together. I have worked in both public and non-public schools and know there are different types of public schools: traditional, K-3, K-6, magnet, charter, GATE etc. There are also different types of non-public schools.

Calling non-public schools "private" does not allow for the huge variation which exists. Just as with public schools, the differences are evident in their funding and control. Public schools are funded from the public purse and answerable to the public will - federal, state, regional and local - following largely externally-defined Policies and Procedures.

Non-public schools receive no public or government funding and so must fund themselves through fees, donations and bequests and of course fundraising and events. They are at most loosely regulated, especially in terms of teaching and learning, and operate largely outside politically-affected arenas, and they define their own Policies and Procedures.

Non-public schools are :

For-profit / proprietory - owned by a person or family and usually single and unique entities reflecting their owner(s). Funding comes entirely from fees, Policies and Procedures come from the owner and the school's operations are driven by a profit motive. Proprietory schools answer to their owner who is often the school leader. In the US, these schools are represented by NIPSA.

For-profit / corporate - owned by a corporation and usually part of a group or chain and ranging from similar to identical. Funding typically comes from fees, although corporate assistance is also possible, for example where educational provision is an element of employee compensation packages. Policies and Procedures come from corporate headquarters, school leaders are often little more than bureaucrats and the school's operations are driven by a profit motive. In the US, these schools may also be represented by NIPSA.

Parochial - religious and attached to a parish. Policies and Procedures come from the Diocese, a similar body or from the individual church, and funds are often provided by this body, often in the form of free or discounted facilities. Income also comes from fees, donations and fundraising. Parochial schools are faith-based, serve their individual parish communities and answer to their priest or pastor. Their overarching concern is their religious obligation, or alternatively to fulfill the functions outlined by their religious leaders. These schools have their own organizations such as the National Catholic Educational Association or the National Association of Episcopal Schools, or smaller regional or specialist groups.

Sectarian - religious but not attached to a parish or specific church. Funding and Policies and Procedures may come from the Diocese or a similar body, or from the school but influenced by their wider faith-based community, while income also comes from fees, donations and fundraising. Sectarian schools are faith-based, serve their communities and are often subsidized by their community. Their overarching concern is to serve their faith-based community to whom they answer. These schools may also belong to the above groups.

Independent - not-for-profit, self-governed by a Board of Trustees, self-financed, and defined by a Mission. Thus independent schools are niche operators and perhaps the most narrowly-focused schools of all as  they do only what is defined in their Mission. Income comes only from fees, donations and fundraising. Policies and Procedures are defined by the individual school's Board of Trustees and/or by the school itself. Independent schools answer directly to their Trustees, parents, students and staff and are entirely financially self-sufficient. Funds come only from fees, fund-raising and donations. The major US group is the National Association of Independent Schools, although regional and state associations are also significant.

Independent Parochial / Sectarian - as the label suggests.

Independent Secular - independent and non-religious. (As a sidenote, many commentators who should know better confuse non-sectarian with secular. Non-sectarian for example may mean christian but not catholic; secular means not religious at all.)

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