Parents often choose private school for their children because of its religious orientation. Most religious schools enroll students based on their parents' faith, as they want to provide their children with a solid moral foundation. From 1830 to 1980, public schools were the main source of equal opportunity and upward mobility in the United States. Private schools, however, were small players and were sometimes viewed with suspicion.
The first colonial schools were private, but by the end of the 19th century, they had become associated with religious and class interests. The economic elite established their own high schools following the model of Eton and Harrow in England, while faith-based organizations, particularly the Roman Catholic Church, founded their own schools to counter Protestant indoctrination in public schools. Not everyone agreed that families should have the option of leaving public schools. In 1925, the Supreme Court case Pierce v.
Society of Sisters resolved this issue. Parish schools are usually funded by the religious organization with which they are associated. While many people think of Catholic schools when they hear the term 'parish school', there are also many private religious schools of other faiths, such as Jewish, Lutheran, and others. Additionally, there are many private religious schools that are independently funded and do not receive funding from a particular church or other religious site. When Canadian private schools began accepting public dollars in the 1980s, they began to look more like public schools.
Although many parochial schools have lower tuition rates, it's important to remember that many private schools, including religious and non-sectarian ones, offer financial aid to qualified families who can't afford tuition. Some analysts and legislators suggest privatizing all public education through a universal voucher system, while others propose providing vouchers to allow children in slums to escape their local public schools and attend private ones. The Cato Institute interviewed parents from both secular and religious private schools and found that “the top five reasons parents choose a private school for their children relate to school climate and classroom management”. Leading sociologists and education economists examined data from James S. Coleman's research project and concluded that the effect of private school was extremely small or even non-existent. Approximately 6 million students attend one of the 27,000 private elementary and middle schools in the United States - this is about 12 percent of all American schoolchildren.
If all public education is privatized through a universal voucher system, it will likely decrease mobility as more middle and lower level private schools will be created without providing any additional resources to public schools. The same research project also found differences between parents who currently have their children in a private religious school and those who are considering placing their children in one. From the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s, Catholic schools experienced a 46 percent drop in students and a 29 percent drop in schools. Contrary to what some advocates of private schools may suggest, most students in private religious institutions are white - only 38 percent of students had parents who indicated that the religious orientation of the school was very important when choosing it. Personal values and a like-minded community are just as important as academic vigor, and private religious schools can offer both. I don't know of any credible studies of the economics of private sector education that convinces me that when all relevant variables are taken into account, private schools are cheaper or better managed than public ones. Parents and guardians of children of compulsory school age have the legal right to enroll them in non-public schools.