Charter School Networks: Does Profit Status Matter?

Josh Cunningham 11/12/2014

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While individual charter schools are all public institutions, and thereby not-for-profit, about one-third of all charter schools nationwide contract with nonprofit and, in some cases, for-profit organizations for school management and adminsitrative services. These organizations collect management fees from their network of charter schools, funds that come directly from the operating dollars alloted by state and local governments to charter schools. For-profit networks can earn a profit from management fees while nonprofit networks cannot.

Critics of for-profit charter networks contend these networks make their bottom line a higher priority than student success, focusing more on quantity of schools served than the quality of education provided. The companies, however, argue that for them to survive they must show high academic results or risk being fired by the independent charter school boards that oversee each individual charter school. Additionally, all public schools, including charters, are subject to state and federal accountability policies and are at risk of closure if their students perform poorly. All charter schools have an additional level of accountability as well in that they each have an authorizing entity that ultimately decides whether to keep open or close the school.

This all leads to the question: Does profit-status have any bearing on whether charter networks can and do provide a quality education to their students? NCSL is bringing voices from all sides of this debate together to explore this question and what it means for legislatures and policymakers around the country. Register below for this webinar on Dec. 2.   

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  • Josh Cunningham, policy specialist, National Conference of State Legislatures


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