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Nonpublic School vs. Private School: What's the Difference?

In some instances, parents want to place their children somewhere other than a comprehensive public school campus. This may include consideration of a child's special needs, past performance or just a personal preference by the parents or the child. Whatever the considerations may be, many times parents understand that a private school is the same thing as a nonpublic school, which is not necessarily accurate, especially if you're asking for the school district to foot the bill.

According to the CA Alliance of Children & Family Services, Nonpublic schools are privately operated, publicly funded schools that specialize in providing educational services for students with needs so exceptional that they cannot be met in a public school setting. The CA Education Code states that nonpublic school services shall be available and those services shall be provided under contract with the school district, Special Education Local Planning Area (SELPA) or County Office of Education (COE). Each nonpublic school must provide "appropriate special educational facilities, special education or designated instruction and services required by the individual with exceptional needs when no appropriate public education program is available."

The more exceptional the child's needs and the more specialized the needed services, the more likely a child will be educated in a nonpublic school. According to the State Department of Education, there are 369 nonpublic schools certified in California. Approximately 15,000 California students are educated each year in nonpublic schools located both in California and in other states.

Private schools, on the other hand, also known as independent schools or non-state schools, are not administered by local, state or national governments; thus, they retain the right to select their students and are funded in whole or in part by charging their students tuition, rather than relying on mandatory taxation through public (government) funding. They have no obligations under federal law to provide special education services, and are not beholden to those standards.

As such, as parents it is important to know the difference between these two entities and how they can and will attempt to meet your child's individual needs.

We welcome your participation in the discussions on this blog. Feel free to comment on posts that interest you.

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Augustin Egelsee L.L.P.
8141 East Kaiser Boulevard
Suite 315
Anaheim Hills, CA 92808

Toll Free: 866-781-7723
Phone: 714-602-1498
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