A school is an educational institution. Schools can be either publicly- or privately-owned, funded by public or private sources or a combination of both, and may have a secular or a religious mandate.
As of 1995 in the United States of America, 89% of children attend taxpayer-funded atheistic schools that censor classroom prayer. But the "percentage of white children enrolled in America's public schools -- 60 percent in 2001-2002 -- is 7 percentage points less than a decade before, according to the National Center for Education Statistics." Public school teachers decide against sending their own children to public schools in higher percentages than the general population. "Of the eight million youngsters in grades K-12 who come from families with annual incomes of $100,000 or more, 80 percent (6.4 million) attend public schools and 20 percent (1.6 million) attend private schools." $489.4 billion in taxpayer dollars, or about $10,000 per student, will be spent on American elementary and secondary public schools for the 2007-2008 school year, and that figure may not include costly pensions. In comparison, the average non-sectarian private school costs $10,992 per year.
Types of schools
Terms used to describe schools vary from place to place. Some of the following descriptions overlap with each other.
A state school is one that is owned and funded by the state.
In the United States, government-controlled schools are supported by taxpayers, often in the form of a school tax on property. Prior to the 20th century, school attendance was only part-time, consuming only about half or less of the year.
In some states of Australia, although the curriculum is secular, religious education by volunteers associated with the Council for Christian Education is permitted. This takes place in class time, but parents can choose that their children not attend this class.
A private school is one that is owned by some body other than the state. Private schools are generally funded by fees levied on the parents of the students, which usually means that the parents are paying twice, once in direct fees, and once in taxes for state schools.
In America, the term is used both as a catch-all for all schools which are not public schools (such as in Internet searches), but also specifically to refer to a school which is not operated or affiliated with a church or a religious organization (e.g. schools which are not parochial schools or Christian schools).
In Australia, the Federal government provides some funding to private schools, although the parents of the students provide most of the income of the school.
Some private schools aspire to very high standards, some specialize in certain modes and topics of instruction (such as a military school), and yet others provide a place for children who need curricula not available in the state systems.
In America, a public school is a state school. In some Commonwealth countries, a public school is a church-run (i.e. run by a church denomination) school that is open to the general public. In the United Kingdom a public school is a private school (as opposed to a 'state school', funded by the government through Local Education Authorities and free of charge to pupils) whose head teacher is a member of the Headmasters' Conference.
In America, the curriculum in public schools is dictated by state governments and increasingly by the federal government under the "No Child Left Behind" and "Common Core" legislation. Federal courts generally prohibit any type of prayer led by school officials, and even forbid the display and teaching of the Ten Commandments.
In America, there are an estimated 49.6 million students enrolled in 97,000 public elementary and secondary schools. In addition, 6.1 million students are enrolled in about 28,000 private schools, and 1.1 million are homeschooled.
Compulsory 5-days a week, nearly 8-hours a day attendance at public school only began nationwide in the United States during the 20th century. Compulsory schooling laws were not universal throughout the United States until 1917, and even then the school year was often less than a half year. There have been few, if any, long-term studies on the effects of the modern approach of full-time attendance at school from age 6 and younger to age 21 and older.
A charter school is a school in the United States which is operated by a private entity; however, it accepts government funding and, as such, must generally accept any student within a specific area (such as a school district) who wishes to attend (excluding students with severe disciplinary issues). The school is allowed (within certain limitations) to deviate from the requirements of the local school district.
A faith school in the United Kingdom is partially controlled by religious groups and have a predominance of pupils from that religious group. The government funds or partially funds faith schools.
Parent-controlled schools (in Australia) are private schools usually owned by churches, but with control being in the hands of a parent-appointed board.
Church schools (in Australia) are the older denominationally-owned and run public schools which generally provide a secular education.
Christian schools, Muslim schools, etc.
What are known as Faith schools in the United Kingdom are known as Christian schools, Catholic schools, or similar in Australia and the United States.
Sunday School is the term used for Christian religious & Bible classes that most commonly take place on Sundays.
Although commonly organized along the same lines as schools (grade separation, and where significantly large by gender), it is not considered a "school" as the term is understood to mean with regards to education.
The term (and the concept in some cases) has fallen out of use in many larger churches among adults (though still used to some extent with children), having been replaced by home groups or other fellowship-type activities which perform essentially the same function.
For most parents, homeschooling is the primary alternative education to schools. Increasing numbers of parents choose homeschooling due to a declining quality and culture in traditional schools and the perceived hostility of established schools to religion and morality, though interestingly homeschooling has become a preferred alternative among irreligious parents.
- Kevin Drew, "Today's battle in classrooms: Resegregation," CNN.com (May 15, 2004).
- "An analysis of 2000 Census data by the Fordham Institute showed that 21.5% of public school teachers nationwide choose private schooling for their children vs. 17.5% for other families." "Class Warfare," Investor's Business Daily A16 (July 7, 2005).
- Council for American Private Education
- Using numbers referenced elsewhere in this article, $489.4 billion dollars divided by 49.6 million public school students = $9867 per student.
- Council for American Private Education
- 1.1 Million Home-schooled Students in the United States in 2003, Nation Institute for Education Statistics
- Case Studies On Health Promotion Initiatives From The Nordic Countries
- U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Public school enrollment in prekindergarten through grade 12, by grade level and region, with projections: Various years, fall 1965–2016 
- U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Number of operating public elementary and secondary schools, by school type, charter, magnet, Title I and Title I school wide status, and state or jurisdiction: School year 2005–06 
- U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Enrollment in educational institutions, by level and control of institution: Selected years, 1869–70 through fall 2015 
- U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Number of educational institutions, by level and control of institution: Selected years, 1980–81 through 2004–05 
- Mankins, Dave, Home Education Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)