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Public vs. private preschools

The factors that differentiate the preschools.

One major question when choosing a preschool: Public or private? Besides the obvious difference — whether you will be walking into the preschool with your child in one hand and a check in the other — other factors also differentiate public from private preschools.

All public preschools are regulated by the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE). For example, OSDE states that preschools must have one staff member for every 10 children. Private preschools that are licensed through the Oklahoma Department of Human Services must have one staff member for every 15 children. For a full list of guidelines, visit or

Also, private preschools are often run by faith-based establishments.

“A faith-based institution probably will incorporate that faith into their curriculum,” says Karen Smith, director of Child Care Resource Center of Tulsa. “But they should still be teaching it in an experiential, hands-on kind of way.”

Britton Fox, admissions director at Riverfield Country Day School, says private preschools have the ability to incorporate families into the admissions process.

“The private school will generally have a family-oriented process of admission, including a tour of the facility and an opportunity for the parents to ask questions about the program,” she says.

Melissa Pierce, pre-kindergarten teacher at Lee Elementary School, says that at public preschools, students can interact with other children from a wide range of demographics.

“These students come from varying life experiences and cultures,” Pierce says. “The preschool age range is such a rich age for learning about communities and the way they work and affect life.”

Regardless of the differences between the two kinds of preschools, Pierce says the overall decision should be based on what fits your child’s needs.

“Check the options in your community and ask questions,” she says. 



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