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public v. private

Public schools are schools that are provided by state and federal funding. Ninety percent of the children in the United States attend public school. Private schools include both parochial schools (related to a church) and non-parochial schools.

Parents may choose to send their children to a public or a private school based on one or more of the many differences in the educational experiences offered. But from a legal perspective there is another important distinction between public and private schools.

The United States Constitution—and primarily the first ten amendments to it, known as the Bill of Rights—limits the ability of federal and state governments to restrict or interfere with those individual rights. Because public school officials are government officials (known as state actors) they are subject to these Constitutional limitations on government actions. But private school officials are not government officials and are not limited by the U.S. Constitution in the same manner as public school officials.

Private schools are governed by their state’s constitution and any relevant state statutes—which are often included in the state’s education code. And if a private school accepts any federal funds it may also be governed by the U.S. Constitution and any relevant federal statutes.

In Texas, public schools are funded by state and federal resources and are considered part of the government, which makes them subject to constitutional limitations. Public school officials, as state actors, must adhere to the U.S. Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, which restricts government interference with individual rights. Conversely, private schools in Texas, which include both parochial and non-parochial institutions, operate independently of such constitutional constraints. They are regulated primarily by the Texas Education Code and other relevant state statutes. However, if a private school in Texas receives federal funding, it may be subject to federal laws and constitutional provisions. Parents in Texas have the option to send their children to either type of school, depending on their preference for the educational experience offered.

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