Public School

State schools, also known in the United States and Canada as public schools, generally refer to primary or secondary schools mandated for or offered to all children by the government, whether national, regional, or local, provided by an institution of civil government, and paid for, in whole or in part, by state taxes. The term may also refer to institutions of post-secondary education funded, in whole or in part, and overseen by government.

General characteristics
This includes basic education, kindergarten to twelfth grade, also referred to as primary and secondary education, as well as post-secondary educational institutions such as universities, colleges, and technical schools funded and overseen by government rather than private entities.

State education is inclusive, both in its treatment of students and in that enfranchisement for the government of public education is as broad as for government generally. It is often organized and operated to be a deliberate model of the civil community in which it functions. Although typically provided to groups of students in classrooms in a central school, it may be provided in-home, employing visiting teachers,and/or supervising teachers. It can also be provided in non-school, non-home settings, such as shopping mall space.

State education is generally available to all. In most countries, it is compulsory for children to attend school up to a certain age, but the option of attending private school is open to many. In the case of private schooling, schools operate independently of the state and generally defray their costs (or even make a profit) by charging parents tuition fees. The funding for state schools, on the other hand, is provided by tax revenues, so that even individuals who do not attend school (or whose dependents do not attend school) help to ensure that society is educated. In poverty stricken societies, authorities are often lax on compulsory school attendance because the children there are valuable laborers. It is these same children whose income-securing labor cannot be forfeited to allow for school attendance.

The term "public education" when applied to state schools is not synonymous with the term "publicly funded education". Government may make a public policy decision that it wants to have some financial resources distributed in support of, and it may want to have some control over, the provision of private education. Grants-in-aid of private schools and voucher systems provide examples of publicly funded private education. Conversely, a state school (including one run by a school district) may rely heavily on private funding such as high fees or private donations and still be considered state by virtue of governmental ownership and control.

State education often involves the following:
    compulsory student attendance (until a certain age or standard is achieved);
    certification of teachers and curricula, either by the government or by a teachers' organization;
    testing and standards provided by government.

In some countries (such as Germany), private associations or churches can operate schools according to their own principles, as long as they comply with certain state requirements. When these specific requirements are met, especially in the area of the school curriculum, the schools will qualify to receive state funding. They are then treated financially and for accreditation purposes as part of the state education system, even though they make decisions about hiring and school policy (not hiring atheists, for example), which the state might not make itself.

Proponents of state education assert it to be necessary because of the need in modern society for people who are capable of reading, writing, and doing basic mathematics. However, some libertarians argue that education is best left to the private sector; in addition, advocates of alternative forms of education such as unschooling argue that these same skills can be achieved without subjecting children to state-run compulsory schooling. In most industrialized countries, these views are distinctly in the minority.

In the United States, the term "state school" is colloquial for state university, a college or university in a state university system. The term "public school" is used for primary and secondary schools which are funded and/or run by a governmental entity.

Public schools in the United States are administered at the federal level by the United States Department of Education, at the state level by state education agencies, and at the local level by local education agencies. Most states employ this three-tiered model of educational governance. There is usually a state superintendent of schools, who is elected to coordinate the state department of education, the state board of education, and the state legislature itself. Statewide education policies are disseminated to school "districts" or their equivalents. These are associated with counties, or with groups of counties; but their boundaries are not necessarily coterminous with county boundaries. These intermediate school district comprise many local (city- or township-level) school districts.

In most states, the county and regional "intermediate" school districts and their boards implement state education policy, and provide the channels through which a local district communicates with a state-level board of education, superintendent and department of education.

Local school districts are administered by local school boards, which operate public primary and secondary schools within their boundaries. Since public schools are funded by taxpayers, members of school boards are democratically elected to represent the public's interest. The authority of school boards is limited to taxpayer-funded schools. Therefore, schools which receive no taxpayer funding, including privately funded, parochial (religiously affiliated) and home schools are not required to abide by school-board policies. (Homeschooling laws vary from state to state.)

Public schools are provided mainly by local governments. Curricula, funding, teaching, and other policies are set through locally elected school boards by jurisdiction over school districts. The school districts are special-purpose districts authorized by provisions of state law. Generally, state governments can and do set minimum standards relating to almost all activities of primary and secondary schools, as well as funding and authorization to enact local school taxes to support the schools—primarily through real property taxes. The federal government funds aid to states and school districts that meet minimum federal standards. School accreditation decisions are made by voluntary regional associations. The first free public school in America was the Syms-Eaton Academy (1634) in Hampton, Virginia, while the first tax-supported public school in America was in Dedham, Massachusetts. In the United States, 88% of students attend public schools, compared with 9% who attend parochial schools, 1% who attend private independent schools, and 2% who are home-schooled.

Public school is normally split up into three stages: elementary school (kindergarten to 5th or 6th grade), middle ("intermediate" or junior high school) from 5th or 6th grade to 8th or 9th grade, and high school (9th to 12th grade).

The middle school format is increasingly common, in which the elementary school contains kindergarten through 6th grade and the Middle School contains 7th through 8th grade. In addition, some elementary schools are splitting into two levels, sometimes in separate buildings: primary school (usually K-2) and intermediate (3-5).

The K-8th format is also an emerging popular concept, in which students may attend only two schools for all of their K-12 education. Many charter schools feature the K-8 format in which all primary grades are housed in one section of the school while the traditional junior high school aged students are housed in another section of the school. Some very small school districts, primarily in rural areas, still maintain a K-12 system in which all students are housed in a single school.

In the United States, institutions of higher education that are operated and subsidized by U.S. states are also referred to as "public." However, unlike public secondary schools, public universities charge tuition, though these fees are usually much lower than those charged by private universities, particularly for "in-state" students. Community colleges, state colleges, and state universities are examples of public institutions of higher education. In particular, many state universities are regarded as among the best institutions of higher education in the U.S., though usually they are surpassed in ranking by certain private universities and colleges, such as those of the Ivy League, which are often very expensive and extremely selective in the students they accept. In several states, the administrations of public universities are elected via the general electoral ballot.

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