Public School vs. Magnet School: What’s the Difference?


With nearly 50 million students enrolled in public schools and an additional 6 million enrolled in private schools across the United States, you may have the option to choose where and which school you decide to send your child. With a number of differences between public, charter, and magnet schools, what is the best option for your family based on your child’s individual needs and subjects they excel in?

Public Schools

Public schools receive their funding from state, local, and federal government funds and because of the source of these funds, they are required to admit students that live within the district. Typically, public schools are more conveniently located and offer bussing to and from school. They also tend to offer after-school activities, clubs, and sports for students to partake in. Public school teachers are also required to be certified by the state, which is not always the case with private schools. One of the downsides to public schools is that the class sizes tend to be far larger, which may result in your child getting limited individual attention. In addition, public schools have less funding for creative programs, such as art and music, and do not always offer programs for academically-gifted students such as a Gifted and Talented program or Advanced Placement courses. In the Twin Cities, there are fifty individual school districts that serve the seven counties across the metro.

Magnet Schools

The main difference between magnet schools and other public schools is that magnet schools have a certain focus: math and sciences, environment and technology, or arts and health sciences. They also receive extra funding by the state to further support these specialized programs, so they are able to spend more on books, supplies, and other resources. The idea behind this is to help students succeed who excel in these subjects and helps foster growth in these areas. Class sizes tend to be smaller than public schools, so students more often than not get more individual attention, which helps foster their their personal growth and development in all subjects. Because a lot of magnet schools do have a specialized focus, they are known for following high academic standards.

So, what are some things to consider when it comes to choosing the best school for your child?

Location and transportation. Is the school centrally located to your home? If you are thinking of sending your student to a school outside your district, is transportation available? If it’s not offered, are you willing to provide transportation to and from school each day?

Educational needs and school focus. Is your child gifted or an average student? Because not all public schools offer programs for academically-gifted students, a magnet school may be a better option for your child so they are given the boost and challenge needed to meet their particular interest or gift. Is your child a budding artist or musician? A magnet school with a focus on arts might be something to consider. Most traditional public schools follow a state-mandated curriculum, so they don’t always have a lot of freedom with the education provided.

What about applications and openings? Most public schools don’t require an application because the main qualification is living within the district, but some magnet and charter schools might require you to complete an application and/or placement testing due to limited space for students.

Contact Jeff Anderson and The Anderson Team at 612-386-8600 and he can help navigate your purchase and loan while you choose the perfect school for your child.