I am trying to understand the main, basic tenets of USA public vs. private school law. (my previous question of a series)

A couple of questions I have are about the relationship between a student (/family) and a private school.

I understand that it is somehow regulated by a contract, or under contract law, in the sense that at least enrollment is under a enrollment contract. As I see by googling around (from overseas), enrollment contracts are mostly about tuition fees, and a couple of very general clauses to respect schools' rules, regulations and requirements. My questions are:

  • are there examples of contract whose contractual clauses detail the kind of instruction that the school will provide (number of hours of teaching, qualification of teachers, laboratory equipment, ... )?
  • are schools' rules, regulations and requirements considered somehow contractual?
  • what and how much is regulated by statute, administrative order, or somehow public law?
  • are there any interesting, well known family vs. private school disputes which have been adjudged in terms of contract law (breach of a contract, remedies, ...)?

Thanks for some pointers to relevant references.

  • 1
    As posed, this is probably too broad to be a good fit for this site. But concerning your second question: schools often have a "student manual" in which rules & regulations are laid out, and the contract often says something like "student agrees to abide by the student manual". I know that as a faculty member at a private university, my own employment contract says that the terms of my position are (largely) governed by the faculty manual. Apr 4, 2023 at 15:44
  • Note to readers a public school means exactly the opposite in the UK than what it means in the USA.
    – Neil Meyer
    Apr 5, 2023 at 1:16
  • @Neil How so? Pls. explain
    – mario
    Apr 9, 2023 at 18:04
  • A public school in the UK is the same as a private school in the USA.
    – Neil Meyer
    Apr 9, 2023 at 18:19
  • Private schools are frequently accredited by a private organization, but I don't know whether states require this nor whether schools typically promise the parents that they will maintain their accreditation.
    – phoog
    Apr 9, 2023 at 19:36

1 Answer 1


Contract law is the basis for private schools operations

Private schools are not operated by the state.

To attend, the school and the parents sign a contract stipulating payment for schooling. These contracts also generally contain a passus that makes the staying of the student contingent on the student obeying the school rules. The contracts also usually cover who has to pay for additional equipment such as laboratory equipment or computers.

Depending on the type of private school, there are two different types of clauses for school hours:

  • In a "study-hall" or "cram school", the number of hours you buy is contractually fixed. Such schools are usually in addition to a different school the student attends and are outside normal schooling hours. In effect, such institutions do group tutoring.
  • A private school that replaces public school usually just dictates that the student has to attend according to the curriculum and then provides the curriculum.

In either case, the qualification of the teachers is generally not part of the contract with the parents but only matter for the contracts of the school with the teachers.

Private schools are generally regulated, but the regulations vary extremely widely in the USA.

  • Many private schools offer various bursaries or scholarships. Not everyone who goes to them is paying for it.
    – Neil Meyer
    Apr 5, 2023 at 1:18
  • 1
    technically those people sign two contracts: one for the school, one for the scholarship - the latter is effort for payment.
    – Trish
    Apr 5, 2023 at 6:28
  • Charter school do not fit your description, since they are operated privately.
    – user6726
    Apr 9, 2023 at 19:05
  • 1
    @user6726 A charter school is different in that a private contractor company that will run a school or schools for the state in exchange for tax payer funds and freedom to operate independent of the school system. They are required to teach the state curriculum but may employ different teaching methods and standards. Typically, admittance is by an application process and is highly competitive, but that is due to the availability to families that can't afford a private education and limited seats per class year.
    – hszmv
    Apr 10, 2023 at 12:48
  • @user6726 or in other words: Charter Schools are not private schools, and not public schools but a third type.
    – Trish
    Apr 10, 2023 at 12:53

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .