Articles are available for reprint as long as the author is acknowledged: Domenick J. Maglio Ph.D.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


By Domenick J. Maglio, PhD Traditional Realist

Regardless of conventional wisdom, there are many of the same issues in private and public schools. Unruly or reluctant students, great variations in ability, demanding-second guessing parents are a fact of life in any educational facility. Some students are good in some particular academic areas while having a difficult time in others.  They come from a wide range of socio economic levels, family functioning and lifestyles.

The major difference between private and public schools is tax money. Public schools receive it while private schools pay it.  Private schools are competing against “free” public education. Private schools are financed by tuitions that are paid by the consumer.

Since private school parents pay tuition they have the ultimate power in quality control: withdrawing their child. Unlike public school they determine the status of the school. When a school does not have enough income to pay its bills, it ceases to exist or it thrives as the tuition outpaces expenditures.

In public schools there is no such objective economic mechanism. Over budgeting in one school generally results in the district shifting money from another one or receiving additional funding from the school district, raising taxes. The level of functioning of a government school is based on criteria established internally by educational bureaucrats with community cronies rubber stamping these decisions.

In district schools there is red tape that hinders many necessary changes. All tax money comes with strings attached. Government representatives act as if their power to distribute taxpayer funds gives them the right to dictate educational policies. The carrot: money, often causes arbitrary decisions that frequently change the school programs. These new programs require expensive implementation, assessments and training which is often confusing and in conflict with past policies. These continually changing approaches interfere with educational continuity. 

Besides increasing paperwork and manpower these added requirements and regulations usher in new procedures and policies that alter the school’s climate. These top-down changes with monetary inducements are almost impossible to rescind. From 1950 to 2009 these administrative mandates with minimal local input have increased administrative staff 702% with only a 252% increase in teachers while student population has risen only 96%. The addition of trillions of dollars to improve schools has not worked.

Private school proprietors are not beholding to government handouts. They invest their own blood, sweat, tears and money to work towards their dream. Their vision is driven by a mission to better education in their own unique ways.  These driven individuals learn to tweak their methods of reaching students and devise new, innovative ones while keeping focus on the quality of education not politics. Unlike dedicated public school personnel, there are no layers of bureaucratic politics to wade through before instituting any change. The private school owner has the power and dedication to do those things necessary to upgrade the school’s quality.

Proprietors of private educational facilities have the ability to be flexible, responding rapidly to needed changes. New programs, additional space and personnel can be added to meet unexpected needs. During economic downturns adjustments can be made to be more economically efficient. Owners build a team of educators through rational not political choices in hiring and firing. The non-teaching staff is held to a minimum for economic reasons allowing an over whelming number of hires to be assigned to the classroom.

Private schools are able to positively impact the whole child including character due to the years of being part of a school community where all the students, teachers and parents know each other. The continuity of instruction from year to year, effective parent-school communication, and the necessary time to train students to strengthen their initial deficits are simple measures that make a huge difference in the quality and climate of the school. This is done without labeling the student for life.  Without extreme political correctness restraints they can give natural consequences to teach student accountability.

In a free enterprise, private schools are too small to be viable targets for unionization. Being free of the shackles of union control private schools are able to keep schools in line with local economic realities, which curb inflated staff salaries. Teachers who have committed serious indiscretions are dismissed without compensation or prolonged union litigation or expensive warehousing of the perpetrator.  Most importantly of all, private schools do not have to deal with union veto power to maintain a streamlined operation.

Private schools are experimental laboratories for education. They will often appeal to different audiences according to the different ways they attempt to reach their educational goals. Each school, like each student, is unique.  Many may have the same mission although their approaches and methods will differ. Some will develop ideas that will show undeniably positive results that will often be adopted by others in the field thus improving education.

These private schools are in an enviable position as they are directed by the consumer. There are no government bailouts that can save poorly operating private schools.  Without this crutch they know they have to deliver valuable services or the consumers will put them out of business.

Dr. Maglio is a columnist carried by various newspapers, an author of several books and owner/director of Wider Horizons School, a college prep program. You can visit Dr. Maglio at


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