Public vs. Private School in San Francisco

San Francisco, California. The Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, and Lombard Street are just some of the attractions San Francisco boasts. But what about the actual residents? How is permanent life in the big city? Well, it sure is expensive; the price of living in San Francisco is 199% of the national average ( But does all this expense pay for great schools? For parents trying to send their kids through school in San Francisco, there is a very tough choice.

The San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) only rates a 6 out of ten on a common rating system ( However, the private school option is also daunting: the average tuition is $16,459 per year ( 90 percent of San Francisco students are in public school ( What is it that makes these 6/10 rated schools so desirable? There are many factors people consider when deciding where to send their kids for education. Some of these include student to teacher ratio, price, minority enrollment, rating of schools, and teaching certifications. SFUSD has many benefits, but the private schools also shine. The California average student to teacher ratio for public schools is 18:1.

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For private, however, it is only 12:1. In general, students get more individual attention in private schools. The minority enrolment rate for San Francisco public schools is 89%, well above the state average of 73%. San Francisco private schools have an average of 53%, slightly under the state average of 54% ( For students who want to be exposed to many different cultures, SFUSD is probably the way to go.

For conscientious parents, the ability of the teachers in question is another large factor. To teach in a public school in the SFUSD you must possess a California Teaching Credential. You need an additional certification to teach English language learners ( Private school teachers do not necessarily need these credentials (

If you want to ensure that your child will receive education from trained professionals, you either need to stick with the public school system or research the teaching requirements of specific private schools. A major factor for many families is price. Public schools are free; this is their intent and purpose. Private schools, however, generally are quite expensive. All in all, both public and private schools in San Francisco have many pros and many cons.

Both public and private schools are trying to fix the issue. Public schools are implementing Common Core standards and providing the option of charter schools. Private schools are finding ways to provide financial aid. The Common Core standards provide a new level of learning for public school students across the country. The Common Core mission statement declares that, “The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills our young people need for success in college and the careers” (corestandards.

org). On the Common Core website (, it also states that the new standards are, “…the first step in providing our young people with a high quality education” (corestandards.

org). SFUSD is currently moving towards Common Core. Hopefully these standards will succeed in bringing up the public school systems, including SFUSD. Another solution public schools are trying is charter schools. Charter schools are kind of like free private schools, but not exactly. The best charter school in SFUSD is KIPP San Francisco Bay Academy.

It rates an 8/10 and has a student to teacher ratio of 14:1 ( The school also ranks very high in standardized testing. In English Language Arts (ELA), 64% of KIPP students rank at least proficient, compared to 59% in SFUSD and 55% in all of California. In math, KIPP students do even better; 80% of students are at least proficient. Only 56% of students in SFUSD and 50% of all California students reached proficient in math.

KIPP is also ahead in science and history, students ranking 78% and 75% in the proficient category, respectively. Only 60% in science and 51% in history of SFUSD students are this high performing. California fairs no better, with only 59% of students reaching proficiency in science, and 49% in history ( KIPP’s results speak for themselves in terms of academics. But public schools are not the only ones with solutions to the problem at hand.

Private schools in San Francisco are trying to lower costs for families who need it. The San Francisco Friends School has an adjustable tuition plan where students pay based on the amount of money their family has. Students pay from $500 to full tuition of $26,000 ( Another private school in San Francisco, Children’s Day School, uses a similar system. They receive financial reports from individual families and then determine how much they pay.

CDS calls this sliding scale tuition. Families pay from 10% to full tuition ( A San Francisco high school, Lick-Wilmerding, provides a flexible tuition plan for families with an average income to qualify for financial aid but still need some help sending their child through school at Lick ( Both private schools and public schools are coming up with answers to the issue.

All in all, whether a student chooses to apply for a private school or ends up going to a public school depends on the student. If the student likes having a more personal relationship with all their teachers and classmates then they might enjoy the environment of a private school. But if a student enjoys being surrounded by many students whom they can choose to befriend or not befriend and does not need a teacher to monitor their learning, then they may prefer a private school. Price, curriculum, and student to teacher are just some of the other factors students and parents consider. In the end, the choice is up to the student: is the price of education really worth it? Sources: • • • • • • • • • • •