Overview of Public Schools

A comprehensive look at the U.S. public school system, including history, governing bodies, funding, and services. Compare private, public and charter schools. Learn more about Magnet school programs and get tips on choosing the right school for your child.
View the most popular articles in Overview of Public Schools:
Updated February 01, 2015
Why Students and Schools Benefit from Foreign Language Programs
It’s clear there is currently a gap in language education. As of 2008, only 18.5% of K-12 students were enrolled in a foreign language class. Ask the experts and they all agree— schools with robust foreign language programs can bring students to the next level.
Ask the experts and they all agree— schools with robust foreign language programs can bring students to the next level.
 
Public schools that invest in foreign language, whether through a full-fledged program or just a few classes, are certain to see the benefit in their student body, extracurriculars, and overall reputation. Full language programs start at an early age, immersing children in language classes every year from K-12, with extracurricular clubs, field trips, and learning experiences to enhance their language education. 
 
It’s clear there is currently a gap in language education. As of 2008, only 18.5% of K-12 students were enrolled in a foreign language class. From 1997 to 2008, public and private elementary schools offering foreign language instruction decreased from 31% to 25%. These numbers are simply not acceptable.
 
There are many reasons why schools, even those at the most elementary levels, should institute a foreign language program into their core curriculum. Dr. Jennifer Austin, an associate language professor at Rutgers University, is an adamant believer in the benefits of language studies. “Researchers have found that there are lifelong cognitive and academic benefits to becoming bilingual.”
 
Robert Riger, Vice President and Director of Pimsleur Language Programs, believes foreign language is the gateway to the rest of the world. “At an age where students begin to form individual preferences, dreams, and set priorities, it’s a clear road map to the next step. For many, it’s a passport to global citizenship, to dreams of connection with future friends and with their
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Updated August 22, 2016 |
Comparing Private, Public and Charter Schools
We take a closer look at the pros and cons of three of the most popular education choices today – public, private and charter schools. Which is the best choice for your child?
Once children have graduated from diapers and baby food, the next big decision for parents becomes where to send their precious tots to school. There are many choices available to parents today, from the neighborhood school down the street to charter and private schools in the area. How does a parent know which school will be the best fit for his child? The choice is never easy, but it helps to weigh the pros and cons of each of these types of schools to see which might present the greatest benefit.
 
Cost

Of course, one of the first variables parents must weigh when comparing the various types of schools is cost. Public schools are “free” institutions by law, although they may charge fees and students may be required to provide their own supplies. Charter schools are also considered public schools, so there is no tuition cost assessed. However, private schools can – and do – charge tuition to students and their parents, and in some cases, those costs can be rather high.
 
According to a report at Fox News, the average tuition cost for private secondary schools during the 2007-2008 school year was around $10,500. Great Schools also cites statistics from the National Catholic Education Association that show while private parochial schools tend to charge lower tuition rates, the average tuition for these schools is still around $2,600 for elementary schools and nearly $7,000 for secondary schools.
 
Enrollment

Public schools are required to accept all students within that district, without
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Published February 18, 2013 |
An Overview of Public School Services
Learn about some of the services available to students through the public school system that are especially helpful to low-income families.
Students in the public school system in the United States are eligible for a variety of services, depending on their needs. Under Title I, students in need are provided with additional assistance to promote their success in school and beyond. Title I funding is provided to more than 90 percent of the school systems across the country, with the money used in a variety of ways to help low-income students break the cycle of poverty with the tools they need for academic success.
 
What is Title I?
 
Title I is one of the oldest public education programs in the United States, as well as one of the largest. The program provides additional funding to school districts with a large population of low-income students to help students in this demographic meet the academic standards assigned by the state. The program was established as the Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, and its purpose is to “ensure that all children have a fair, equal and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education,” according to the U.S. Department of Education website.
 
The Department of Education also lists strategies that should be implemented by local school districts to achieve that purpose with the provided funding, which include:
  • Meeting the educational needs of low-income and minority students
  • Holding schools and governments accountable for academic achievement of students
  •  Use of tools, assessments and instruction that are aligned with state standards
  • Closing the achievement gap between high and low-performing children
  • Providing professional development for staff that
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Published February 05, 2013 |
How to Choose a Public School for Your Child
We offer tips to help parents find the best fit in public education for their children, as well as how to know which public school their children should attend based on location.
Choosing a public school for your child is a much more complex task today. With many more options available than the neighborhood school down the street, parents often feel overwhelmed with the task of determining the specific needs of their child and researching the schools to find the best fit for those needs. There are a number of factors to weigh when choosing a school, and many of the most important features are listed below.
 
District Zones and Your Neighborhood School
 
For many families, the best choice in schooling may be the neighborhood school down the street. Students are typically assigned to a specific elementary school by district zoning, which divides up the district using a precise formula that allows for the most even allotment of students at each school.  However, the problem with choosing a school strictly according to zoning is that boundaries can change over the course of a child’s academic career, according to School Wise Press. One school may see significant growth that results in overcrowding, initiating a zoning change. Other schools may see enrollment drops that require either rezoning school boundaries or closing and consolidating schools.
 
Parents that are concerned about possible zoning changes during their child’s academic career may want to inquire about open enrollment policies. Some districts may allow families to open enroll students at the school they have been attending in the event of a boundary change to ensure students enjoy continuity in their schooling. However, keep in mind that other
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Published February 04, 2013 |
An  Overview of the Funding of Public Schools
Learn about how public schools are funded today and how the federal and local monies are allocated.
Schools nationwide require resources to operate, and that typically boils down to money. The way in which schools get their funding varies from state to state and district to district. However, there are a few basic funding principles that are relatively uniform throughout the country. With funding coming from a variety of resources, and allocation determined in various ways, it is helpful to understand the basics of funding public schools to discover where these important institutions get the resources they need to educate students across America.
 
Where does the Money Come From?
 
According to Education Week, public school funding comes from a variety of sources at the local, state and federal level. Approximately 48 percent of a school’s budget comes from state resources, including income taxes, sales tax and fees. Another 44 percent is contributed locally, primarily through the property taxes of homeowners in the area. The last eight percent of the public education budget comes from federal sources, with an emphasis on grants for specific programs and services for students that need them.
 
The website for the U.S. Department of Education explains that during the 2004-2005 school year, about 83 cents from every dollar spent on education came from state and local sources. Around eight percent is contributed by the federal government, and another eight or nine percent might come from private entities. The careful distribution of funding is according to a traditional American desire to keep control of the schools at the local level, rather than a national
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About Public Schools

Overview of Public Schools