Families relocating to the Seattle area with school age children are very fortunate, as Seattle is home to a large number of highly regarded and nationally ranked public and private schools. Many of my clients relocating from outside of the United States have asked me to explain the differences and similarities between the two models - Public and Private (Independent) Schools.
PUBLIC SCHOOL- is State and Federally funded and follows all teaching and testing guidelines supervised by the School district and State Education Board. With funding dependent on the government, public school resources are always at risk of being cut and map to general state and federal budget cuts. Budget cuts may affect your child’s class size, the teacher/student ratio, as well as curricular or extra-curricular programs in the arts, music and sports. There is no cost to attend public schools from Grade 1 - 12. There is a monthly cost for full-day Kindergarten and no cost for 1/2 day Kindergarten (3 hr program).
Many schools with an active parent volunteer base (PTA) are able to fundraise and provide additional opportunities for students and teachers. Fundraising may consist of holding an auction, cash based giving campaign, walk-a-thon and book sales to subsidize the school's budget.
Public schools most frequently are neighborhood schools and I am able to work along side your real estate agent to make sure your desired school falls within your housing boundaries. Housing not employment boundaries will determine the public school your child attends. Due to the growth in the Seattle area, many public schools are overcrowded and class sizes range from 22-32 students.
Most public schools will have a mix of academic ability. In the United States, schools are required to meet the needs of all students and make the proper accommodations, as needed. Assistance programs offered at no cost to families for qualified students may include speech, occupational and physical therapy and English as a second language training.
Seattle area public schools also are required to offer gifted and talented programs. Students must meet qualifying scores across a series of test for reading, math and cognitive skills. Public schools that serve gifted and talented students are limited to a few schools per district and all testing in managed by the school district.
In the United States separation of church and state does not allow public schools to teach religion. As of now, public schools do not require a uniform, most districts provide bus transportation to/from school at no cost and serve a hot lunch daily at a minimal cost.
PRIVATE/INDEPENDENT SCHOOL - Most private/independent schools are not-for-profit and receive no funding from the State. These schools rely on tuition and school specific fundraising efforts including an annual auction and giving campaign to cover the cost of education and facilities management.
Most private schools will require entrance testing and an extensive application for admittance. The majority of private schools only allow admittance at the beginning of the school year (early September) with a very few exceptions for mid-year enrollment. The application process begins with tours and admission testing in the Fall prior to the admittance year - i.e.: Fall 2015 testing and application for Fall 2016 entrance. Acceptance announcement is communicated in the Spring with a nonrefundable deposit to hold your student's spot due within a few week timeframe.
Private schools are located across the Puget Sound area and require families to provide their own transportation either by driving, carpool or paid bus service. Uniforms are not common in the majority of private schools and tend to only be required in a few faith based schools. Private schools may teach religion and have discretion about how to celebrate religious traditions and culture awareness. Private schools are not required to offer special education support and schools that offer support for learning differences increase the tuition by an average of 40% for that student.
Many of your child's extracurricular activities will take place at the school and, unlike your neighborhood public school, friends will come from all over the Seattle area. Many private schools offer a richer selection of "the extras" including sports, arts, theater, technology/maker spaces and music programs.
Student to teacher ratios tend to be significantly smaller than public schools with size ranging from 12-18 students per subject period. Not all private schools offer AP certified courses in high school, but even without official AP classes, the students have the ability to sit for the AP exams and obtain credit.
Tuition will vary from $8000 to over $30,000 per year depending on the school and child's grade level. Most independent high schools in Seattle area are $30,000 per year - servinggrades 9-12. Financial aid is available from each school for a limited number of qualified families. Faith based schools with parish sponsors (i.e. Catholic) tend to have tuition prices at approximately half of non-faith based schools.
My services streamline the school search process and help you find the right fit for your family, housing area and budget.