My daughter left the private school world for public high school recently, and while the concept of a free public education for everyone is noble, the challenges are real. She's in one of the better public schools in our large city, but it's still a public school. She's dealt with class sizes of 30 to 40 in all of her sections, including core classes. She's dealt with witnessing fights. She's even dealt with a pyromaniac who sets paper on fire in small, portable classrooms. Most of these situations can be improved, but all of them have already happened (and will happen again). That's just not how life is in a private school.
Our city schools have been fined by the state in recent years for not maintaining appropriate class sizes for core classes. I don't know how the teachers' union continues to allow teachers to deal with over 30 children in almost every classroom. Therefore, I'd have to assume someone is benefiting from obnoxiously-sized classes stuffed into decaying classrooms. I'm not sure if administrators get bonuses for not hiring enough teachers or what, but I'm a certified teacher myself, and I'd offered to help out if asked. Since I was never asked, I assume the school or district or someone wants huge class sizes.
The school my daughter attends is ranked in the top 20% of schools in the city, yet she's told me about around a half-dozen fights within the first two months of classes. I've also learned that a good percentage of students show up for the football games after drinking, including some of the halftime entertainment. As a former teacher, I know that fights are probably a result of lack of classroom control--I never taught more than 30 kids in a class, but I still had fights break out. However, I also know that when I had much smaller class sizes, the likelihood of fighting was diminished. The drinking is also a result of lax rules, and administrators would rather turn a blind eye to the behavior than deal with angry, wealthy parents. So the school just hopes kids don't drive or fall out of the stands or puke up their lunches at the football game. Conversely, I'd assume that a private school would kick out students when it gets to the point of fighting or embarrassing the school. That's what I'd expect as a parent who pays extra for the service.
Some kids are pretty messed up. They might become (or already are) criminals. But we feel the need to keep all of them in school until they're 18. I know, there are alternative schools that train the kids for prison life, but most of the kids know how to stay just ahead of schools like that, so they spend their time floating around the public school, causing just enough trouble to get the attention they need. Everyone else puts up with these kids until it's time to enter the real world, where the derelicts probably become a strain on society by claiming entitlements for whatever self-inflicted problems arise in their lives. I don't have a solution, but those aren't the kids at the private school down the street from my daughter's school, so she has to navigate classes that include kids who appear to be insane. Even if it's just one or two kids in a class, that really affects the rest of the class.
If I had the extra $15,000 per year per kid sitting around, I'd probably invest it in a private school. Since all I have is my two cents, I'll say that public schools need to do a better job of separating the students who want to learn and follow the rules from those who don't. And maybe follow the rules set by your own state as to class sizes, too.