For-profit companies have discovered that there is a lot of money to be made from public education dollars, and they are taking advantage of that fact. In many states, for-profit ventures with no experience running successful schools are being granted charters. Often these schools are run on the cheap in order for the companies to pay their stockholders substantial dividends. The children are being shortchanged in the process.
For-profit and virtual charter school companies are making so much money off of these ventures that they are willing to invest large sums of money in lobbyists whose job is to get for-profits access to more state tax dollars. Foundations that have been established to push for the privatization of our public education system are also investing heavily in that effort. In other states, out-of-state for-profits and “privatize education” groups have spent millions to influence legislation and constitutional amendments.If they’ll spend that kind of cash to influence legislators, they’ll spend it to influence school boards, too.
The Parents’ Campaign is concerned that, if a majority vote of a school board is required to establish a charter school in an attractive school district (one with a high local contribution), for-profits and issue-oriented foundations will begin to lobby school boards. Worse, they are likely to find candidates for school boards who are willing to push their agenda and fund their campaigns. A good way to ruin school boards is to make them susceptible to lobbyists representing lucrative charter school ventures or have them populated with folks who don’t really have the best interests of public schools at heart.
Unfortunately, there has been a lot of unseemly activity around this issue, with profits being a primary motivator. Money and politics have led to the creation of a disproportionate number of failing charter schools which have tainted the charter school movement.
States are now moving to tighten their laws to require that all charter schools and their management organizations be non-profit and to move to a single authorizer. The goal is to remove the incentives that encourage profit-driven charter schools and to increase the likelihood that charter schools will be successful.