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For-profit charter school outfit churns kids for profit

Cross-posted from the blog of national education expert Diane Ravitch:

Profits, Not Better Education

An article in a publication called “The Financial Investigator” took a close look at K12, the for-profit online “education” corporation whose growth had made it a darling of Wall Street. The article paid particular attention to the “churn rate” at K12 online schools. That is, how many students left in a given year. In the Ohio Virtual Academy of K12, a staggering 51% of students turned over in a single year. That helps to explain why the name of the game for the for-profit online academies is recruitment. So long as the corporations can keep their numbers up, they will collect tuition money from the state, usually double their real costs.

The more the for-profit academies churn, the more they earn. And every dollar they collect comes right out of the public school budget. In Pennsylvania, where nearly half the school districts are in financial distress, the diversion of dollars to for-profit academies is harming the great majority of children who attend regular brick-and-mortar schools. And bear in mind that the online charters–whether they are for-profit or not–get terrible results.

Last week, I had a debate about education entrepreneurs on Twitter with Justin Hamilton, the press secretary for Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. I made clear that I was referring to for-profit schemes like online academies. I am very dubious, no, actually, I am opposed to spending taxpayers’ money on for-profit education management organizations or for-profit charter schools. I kept pushing Justin to say that he agreed, or the U.S. Department of Education agreed. He would not. They choose to stand silently by while corporate suits target children as profit opportunities.

It seems to me that the U.S. Secretary of Education should denounce for-profit education. It wastes money; it supplies bad education; it gets terrible results. But as we have seen in relation to for-profit higher education, high-priced lobbyists work Congress and state legislatures to protect their industry. For-profit higher education is a $30 billion industry, and it has the wherewithal to call off the regulators.

As the expose of K12 in the New York Times reminds us, the highest goal of for-profit corporations is profit. Not education. Not the development of young people. Not character. Not the good of society. Profit.”

5 Comments


  1. Doug

    May 30, 2012 at 9:14 am

    Profit is a dirty word in the Progressive vocabulary !

  2. Rob Schofield

    May 30, 2012 at 9:53 am

    Not that such a ridiculous and indefensible assertion even deserves a response, but, for the record, it should be noted that:

    Profit and the markets that generate it are among the best things that humans have ever fashioned for making our economy work. But profit is not divine. And it is clearly NOT an appropriate objective or outcome in every single human endeavor — especially fundmental functions of a free and democratic society like the provision of universal, free public education.

  3. Alex

    May 30, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    Strange , but most Progressives including yourself, tend to migrate to either governmental or non-profit agencies where there is no competition. ” It is what it is ” as the man said.

  4. Rob Schofield

    May 30, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    Laying aside the absurd and remarkably naive assertion that “most Progressives…tend to migrate to either governmental or non-profut agences,” (says who?) I can understand why a young right-winger might think there is no competition in the government or nonprofit worlds. Especially if all the person knows is the North Carolina model in which Art Pope and a few of his cronies fund the whole conservative echo chamber and treat the groups and people funded as their staff, this might be a reasonable conclusion.

    But in the progressive world — and indeed even in the public sector — the competition for support from funders (especially national foundations) is actually quite fierce, even cut-throat. It’s clearly a helluva lot tougher to earn a living in the progressive nonprofit sector than it is to inherit your daddy’s department store chain. Moreover, the attrition rate amongst nonprofits is not at all dissimilar to that of the for-profit world.

    Think before you type, young man.

  5. Alex

    May 31, 2012 at 7:53 am

    I’ve been on both sides of the aisle Rob, and I can assure you there is no comparison between the two. The nice relaxed lifestyle in government and non-profit agencies where your biggest decision in the day is where to eat lunch cannot be duplicated in the corporate world.

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