Public Education

Public education is education mandated for the children of the general public by the government, whether national, regional, or local, provided by an institution of civil government, and paid for, in whole or in part, by taxes. The term is generally applied to basic education, K -12 education or primary and secondary education: it is rarely, if ever, applied to post-secondary education, advanced education, or universities, colleges, or technical schools.

Public education is a civil institution; that is, the primary decisions about access, curriculum, and allocation of resources are made by a civil authority (government) or by the employees of a civil authority. Public 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. Public education is often organized and operated to be a deliberate model of the civil community in which it functions.

Public education may be provided by a national or regional government (province, state, territory, etc.), or it may be provided by a local (non-state) government. Where public education is provided by the state or a regional government, it is often referred to as "state education", a term which is rarely used when public education is provided by a local government.

Public education is typically provided to groups of students (classrooms; the "one to many" model of delivery), with a number of groups of students clustered in a school. However, the term "public education" is not synonymous with "public schooling". Public education can be provided in-home, employing visiting teachers, supervising teachers, and/or distance learning. It can also be provided in non-school, non-home settings, such as shopping mall space.

The term "public education" 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 education which is not public education. Grants-in-aid of private schools, and voucher systems all provide examples of publicly funded education which is not public education. Conversely, a public school (including ones run by school districts) may rely heavily on non-public funding (such as high fees or private donations) but still be considered public by virtue of public ownership and control.

Public education often involves the following:

1. compulsory student attendance (until a certain age or standard is achieved);

2. certification of teachers and curricula, either by the government or by a teachers' organization;

3. testing and standards provided by government.