Private Preschool vs Public Preschool: Which One is Better?

private vs public pre-school

It’s time to send your little one to preschool, and you’re trying to choose between a private and public preschool.

You’re probably a little stressed — you so badly want to make the best decision. We know how stressful it can be, so we put together a quick comparison to help.

*FYI, some of the links in this article about public preschool vs. private preschool may be affiliate links. If you click and make a purchase, we may get a commission (at no extra cost to you). For more info, please see our disclaimer.

Public VS Private Preschool

Most people agree that preschool, in general, is a big benefit to children. However, there is a great debate about whether public or private is better.

While every single preschool you come across will vary to some degree, the following are the most common characteristics of private and public preschools. You can use these to get an idea of which way you would rather go. 

Helpful Quiz at the End
Don’t forget to check out our helpful quiz at the end to help you decide if you should go with a public preschool or a private preschool.

1. Admissions Process

Getting into a preschool does not seem like it should be too difficult. However, it most certainly can be.

Enrolling in a private preschool can be a daunting process, similar to that of getting into college. There’s usually a pretty thorough vetting process that often involves both child and parent interviews.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. By having a strict admissions process, the private preschools are being selective, which often leads to higher overall quality. At the same time, though, it can create a lot of pressure for both you and your child.

On the other hand, public preschools are required to allow any child within the district to attend. There’s no rigorous admissions process, no pressure to perform. You simply enroll.

2. Class Size

Most private preschools have a much lower student-to-teacher ratio than public preschools. The classes are smaller, so private preschool teachers can offer more one-on-one attention to each child in their care.

This can be very beneficial as if they notice your child struggling in an area, they can work more with them to overcome that challenge. Public preschools do make a great effort, but sometimes the class sizes are just too large to allow the type of individual attention each child needs.

3. Curriculum

There’s a difference in the curriculums. Public preschools focus mostly on core subjects, such as math and reading. They are required to follow specific state guidelines and assessment procedures.

Private preschools, however, are not subject to these. They have the flexibility to approach learning differently.

Most private preschools have a more child-led approach, meaning that it revolves around each child’s learning styles and interests. They follow a more creative approach, teaching the children through play, hands-on activities, and more.

4. Availability

Not all districts have public preschools. As they only accept children from their own district, you cannot have your child enrolled in a district you’re not in.

Private preschools have the freedom to allow anyone in. Even if you’re a couple of districts away, as long as you’re willing to drive, you can send your child.

5. Age Requirements

Preschools have age requirements, meaning that children past a certain age are not enrolled as they should be moving to kindergarten. Most often, this age parameter goes by the child’s birthday and the district.

Public preschools typically adhere to these guidelines strictly. Private preschools, however, have the ability to be flexible in these decisions.

This means that if you feel your child is not quite ready for kindergarten, you can often find a private preschool that will accept them for another year.

Related: Preschool vs Pre-Kindergarten

6. Extracurricular Activities

Extracurricular options can vary greatly among all preschools. As many public preschools are connected to an elementary school, they can often let students join in on the same extracurriculars and after-school offerings.

Private preschools also offer extracurriculars, though. When looking at different preschools, be sure you ask for specifics on what they have available.

7. Expulsion

You might be wondering why we’re talking about expelling preschoolers. I admit it’s not something I even like to think is ever necessary. However, sometimes it is.

Even preschoolers can be bullies. If your child ends up in a school with a kid who picks on him all the time, it’s important to know what can be done.

Private preschools are not subject to a bunch of rules and regulations set by others. If they see a child misbehaving, they have the ability to address the issue and expel that child if they feel it’s necessary.

Public preschools can also expel students. The problem is typically in how it must be handled. They usually have to meet certain requirements, like documenting the behavior for a certain amount of time.

They might even have to wait until the child commits specific heinous acts before action can be taken. Requirements vary among districts.

The bottom line is that a private preschool can act swiftly. There is the possibility of your child having to endure bullying for some time in a public preschool.

8. Religious/Faith Affiliations

Public preschools are state-regulated, so like other public schools, there is no religious affiliation. Private preschools are often directly associated with or even ran by churches or religious organizations. This is not the case with all private preschools, but it is common.

Private preschools affiliated with religion typically teach biblical principles and often do bible readings. If getting your child a good start with religion is important to you, a private preschool can help you reach that goal.

9. Tuition

The cost is quite often the biggest deciding factor. Public preschools are not allowed to charge tuition. They’re available to give students of all income levels a healthy start in education. While there may be fees here and there for different things, there is no tuition involved.

Private preschools, on the other hand, do charge tuition. The upside to this tuition is that it allows parents more say about their child’s education, it can still be a very high price to pay.

Comparison of Key Characteristics of Public and Private Preschool

Public PreschoolPrivate Preschool

Admissions

Looser restrictions — Children must be in the district but open to all in that area.

Rigorous admissions process with the freedom to turn anyone down at their discretion.

Class Size

Higher student to teacher ratio.

Lower student-to-teacher ratio for more individual attention.

Curriculum

Must follow regulations and assessments. Focuses on core subjects.

More flexibility usually leading to a more creative and child-centric curriculum.

Availability

Not available in all districts.

You can often find at least a few in or around districts — the ability to allow those from other districts in.

Age Requirements

Adheres strictly to state age requirements.

Has the ability to move past the age guidelines, if they deem it appropriate.

Extracurriculars

Offers some activities as they are often associated with a school.

Many provide several extracurriculars.

Expulsion

Must meet specific requirements before expulsion is allowed.

Ability to expel at discretion.

Religion

State-regulated, so not usually affiliated to any religion.

Many have different religious affiliations if you prefer this.

Tuition

Available to all income levels with no tuition required.

Requires tuition payments, which can be too high for many families.

A comparison chart of the differences between a private preschool and a public preschool.

Which is Better: Public or Private Preschool?

The truth is that both have advantages and disadvantages, and it comes down to your needs and preferences. The following table can help summarize times to choose each.

Consider Private Preschool If:Consider Public Preschool If:
  • Religious affiliation is important.
  • You want more one-on-one attention for your child.
  • You’re looking for a more child-led curriculum.
  • You want to enroll your child past the age requirements of public preschools.
  • Your district offers one.
  • Budget is an important factor
  • You fear you might not meet admissions requirements for private options.
  • You’re looking for more structured learning.
A comparison chart of public vs private preschools, showing you when to pick one over the other.

Take the Quiz

If you need a little more help, this quiz will hopefully help steer you in the right direction.

Pick the Best One For Your Family

Choosing between public and private preschool is a very important and personal decision. Carefully consider each of the facts above and speak to multiple preschools for any answers to questions you might have.

If you have any personal experience with either option, please share below to help others in their decision-making process!

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Frequently Asked Questions

The biggest differences between private and public preschools are the cost (private preschools are a lot more expensive) and the faith-based affiliation of many private preschools.

Private preschools are not funded by taxes, so you have to pay for tuition, and they don’t have the same curriculum requirements as public preschools.

The age for preschool is typically set, with most preschools requiring kids to be at least 3 years of age and to be potty trained.

The biggest difference between a church and a private preschool is that a church preschool will have a faith-based curriculum.

A private preschool is worth it if you can afford the tuition and if you want a little bit more influence in your child’s preschool curriculum. For example, you might want religious content included in your child’s education, something that’s typically not possible in public preschools.