Public, Private, Charter, OH MY!

I have always worked in public schools and I grew up attending many public schools. Even now, my child goes to a public school. Fortunately, the school Killian goes to is a fantastic school and one of the best IEP schools in his district. But, I wonder what it would be like if that weren’t the case. What if his school was awful or didn’t follow through with their obligations and IEP guidelines? Would he be allowed to switch schools? What if we wanted him to attend a Christian based private school, or even home-school? (Okay okay, you can stop laughing at the idea of me home schooling. We all know THAT will never happen.)

So, what exactly are the differences in procedure and regulations for each school category? Are there any differences or all they all held to the same expectations? Would I even be eligible for in-home services had I opted to home-school?

First, let’s go over the differences between a public, private, and charter school.


Public schools are free to attend and are run by local school districts. They are funded by the public and must follow all federal and state education laws. Most do not require applications to attend, only information and registration packets. No child will be denied access to attend based on having a disability. Public schools are also mandated by law to evaluate students for special education as well as legally obligated to provide classroom accommodations. Public schools are also required by law to provide special education services, IEPs, and 504 Plans . Every teacher must be state-certified. Students will be expected to meet all state academic standards and every school is accountable for student achievement under federal law. Formerly known as the No Child Left Behind Act, it is now called Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).


Private schools are funded privately and are much smaller than public schools due to the lack of excessive funding. There is little to no government oversight so they are not eligible for the same grants that public schools can access. Applications are required and not every child applying will be able to get in since there is limited space. Private schools also require tuition which is why not many parents opt for the private school route. The national average private school tuition is approximately $10,676 per year according to the 2019/20 school year. While they are not allowed to discriminate against those with disabilities, they can can reject applicants for almost any reason. While they are not required by law to evaluate children for special needs, the local public school districts must find and evaluate kids in private school that they believe may have disabilities. They are also not regulated to provide 504 Plans and do not have to offer special education services and IEPs, however, a local school district may provide services to a child in a private school through a service plan.  Talk to your local education agency for more information. Though some private schools specialize in ADHD, Dyslexia, and other challenges. And depending on your state, teachers are not required to be state-certified.  The schools do not have to participate in state academic standards and ESSA.


Charter schools are a public independent school. These can either be run as a home-school program, an on-site campus, or a mix of both where kids do some classes at home and some classes on school grounds.  Charters are funded by public and/or private donors. While they must follow education law, they are allowed exemption from some of the rules. Just like private schools, charters are generally smaller and therefore require applications but some of them are free to attend. They are not allowed to discriminate against students with disabilities and can’t “counsel out” or discourage kids from attending. While they are required by law to evaluate for special needs and provide services, IEPs, 504 Plans, and classroom accommodations, please note that they may not be as well equipped with the specialists and services that your child may need to succeed like traditional public schools are. Some schools, however, are specialized in teaching kids with ADHD, Dyslexia, and other challenges. Depending on the state, teachers may not be required to be state-certified. Students are also apart of the ESSA and state academic standards.


For exclusively home-school children (where parents are solely responsible for their child’s education) there are very few states that place much emphasis on providing IEP services to home-schooled children. Specialized education programs are offered to those home-school only kids. Such programs are offered by a variety of home-school organizations, such as the Home School Legal Defense Association and other large home-school support groups. However, these programs are not compulsory, nor does state or federal law require these programs. Always talk to your child’s doctor(s) and therapist(s) for assistance in creating their education plan, getting adaptive equipment, and/or assisted learning needs.

Though this is just a brief overview of the differences between these 3 school classifications, there are are many hyperlinks to lead you to more detailed information to help you choose the right school for your son/daughter.

-The Lazy Mama

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