Why education reform leaders are moving away from the for-profit charter school model
- Generally, charter schools must be overseen by nonprofit boards. However in some cases, management can be turned over to for-profit companies known as education-management organizations (EMOs), reports Chalkbeat.
- Groups of progressive education reform leaders have formed, in California particularly, which are focused on either prohibiting for-profit charter schools or fighting against them. Many of these groups argue that public schools with federal dollars ought to be subject to public accountability, though opponents of the movement contend that getting rid of for-profit schools would limit school choice options for students who need them.
- Some states already ban such schools; however, as it currently stands, about 15% of charter schools in the nation are run by EMOs, according to a 2016 report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
A recent February report on instructional quality and expenditures in charter school types found that charters generally spend less per pupil on instructional salaries compared with districts. Further, it found, based on recent national data sets on school site expenditures, that for-profit charters spend less than nonprofits and statistically significantly less on instructional salaries, as compared with district schools across the nation. Consequently, many education reform leaders argue against the for-profit model, believing that for-profit institutions are not actually focused on student achievement or quality of teaching, but rather enrolling as many students as possible in order to make a higher profit. Criticism of for-profit institutions comes at a time when more wealthy donors--most notably the Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos--are investing heavily in these types of schools, in addition to virtual charters under the umbrella theme of increasing school choice options.
As to whether for-profit institutions actually hinder student achievement, conflicting studies make it difficult to ascertain an answer. Some studies show that when comparing for-profit schools with nonprofits and traditional public schools, there are no significant differences in student performance when looking at test scores. On the other hand, a new study from the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University, found that generally, students attending nonprofit operated schools experienced faster academic growth than traditional public schools, while students in for-profit schools did no better in reading, but worse in math, reports EdWeek.
Follow Shalina Chatlani on Twitter