Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Charter Schools and Financiers

The unions' favorite talking point about charter schools is that "Big Corporations" (see attack ad against Craig Johnson, below) or hedge funds (see Mulgrew's quote, above) are making big profits.  This is so hysterical on a number of levels (and the unions know it, of course).  First, even the for-profit operators are losing a fortune – for example, according to the recent NYT article bashing Imagine Schools (www.nytimes.com/2010/04/24/education/24imagine.html), the founders "sank $155 million into Imagine…" 


Second, VERY few charter schools are managed by for-profit operators.  How few?  In NYS, I asked the NY Charter Schools Association and got this response from Peter Murphy, Policy Director:


Attached please find a list of all the charter schools in the state and when they opened, and including those that are no longer operating (last page).


Those contracting with a for-profit management company are highlighted.  It breaks down to three companies:


Victory Schools – 9 (one of which is closing – New Covenant)

National Heritage Academies – 5 (of which one opens this fall)

Edison Schools – 1 (Harriet Tubman)


Please note the following:

·         Of the 140 schools in operation, 14 are run by for-profits (10%)

·         Of the 175 approved for operating (not counting two pending closures), 15 are run by for-profits (8.6%)

·         Of the 11 closed, or soon to be closed, charters - 7 were run by for-profits [SABIS, NHA, Beacon (now Imagine), Edison (the most)]


Student Achievement

The glaring part of this discussion that has been missing is these charter schools' positive academic results for students.  Of the 10 for-profit charters that administered state exams for grades 3-8 in  English and mathematics in 2008-09, only one charter performed lower than their respective school district or community school district (Peninsula Prep lower in ELA; but higher in math).  The attached tables compare charter school performance on these state exams measured by the percentage of students meeting or exceeding state standards compared to their respective school district or CSD.


I also asked for national numbers from Nelson Smith, President of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, who writes:


It's about the same share nationally: 10.1% managed by EMOs, 22.5 by EMOs and CMOs combined. Here's the link to the data in our Dashboard: www.publiccharters.org/dashboard/schools/page/mgmt/year/2010


BTW, just to be clear – the charter schools themselves are almost all nonprofit, nationally; only in Arizona (primarily) can a for-profit operator directly get a charter, certainly not in NY.

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