AFT, Nonprofit Launch ‘Cashing in on Kids’ Website, Spur Controversy

Associate Editor

For-profit education is being put under the microscope in the new ‘Cashing in on Kids’ website, a collaboration between the American Federation of Teachers and In the Public Interest that takes on the five largest for-profit charter school organizations in the country.

The site curates news and information about five charter-school operators: K12 Inc., Imagine Schools, White Hat Management, Academica, and Charter Schools USA.

“It’s a way of calling the question: Is the rapid expansion of charter schools about helping kids learn, or about enabling for-profit operators to rake in millions in tax dollars?” said Randi Weingarten, AFT president, in the announcement.

Research from 2011-12 shows that about 65 percent of charters are independent, according to Alex Medler, vice president for policy and advocacy for the National Association of Charter School Authorizers. “The remainder are split roughly 50/50 among for-profit and non-profit networks,” he indicated. In recent years, charter management organizations, which are non-profit, are growing faster than the education management organizations, which are for-profit.

Kara Kerwin, president of The Center for Education Reform, a Washington organization that advocates for charters and school choice, issued a strong response to the launch today.

“[T]his latest campaign against education reform irresponsibly suggests that profit and student success are mutually exclusive, ignoring the fact that K-12 education in the U.S. is a $607 billion enterprise annually,” Kerwin indicated.

Taking the “anti-charter” view, Donald Cohen, the executive director of Washington-based In the Public Interest, said, “For-profit charter schools that operate in the dark without basic public transparency and without strong public control too often put their bottom line ahead of the public interest and high-quality public education.” The focus of Cohen’s organization is to be a “resource center on privatization and responsible contracting,” according to its website.

But Kerwin argued that for-profit charter management firms’ “entire business model is predicated on student outcomes.” Their bottom line “is for the greater public interest,” she said. “If it’s not, they will lose business.”

What do you think?

5 thoughts on “AFT, Nonprofit Launch ‘Cashing in on Kids’ Website, Spur Controversy

  1. Charter schools make people money! I’m glad to see the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and In the Public Interest stepping and promoting transparency in the for-profit charter school industry.

    Non-profit does not mean charity, their next steps should be to expand and shed light on the "foundations" of nonprofit charter schools nationwide that are making millions in New Market Tax Credits and Qualified Zone Academy Bonds at taxpayer expense!

  2. It’s about time that someone recognizes the fact that many Charter schools are there for one reason, to make a profit. We are using public money to fund these schools, there should be 100 percent transparency concerning the allocation and disbursement of this money. In my state, several high profile Charter schools have gone bankrupt and no one knows where the money has gone. In one case our delightful Governor visited and praised one of the very Charter schools that went belly up.

  3. I find it comical that the article posted by K12online attempts to elucidate how this new website is making it an "us vs. them" narrative. It’s been an "us vs. them" narrative ever since privatizers and corporations attempted to use charter schools to make profits from public tax payer money. The initial concept of charter schools, often accredited to Albert Schanker (once president of the AFT), was based on collaboration. Charter schools would be developed by teachers within school districts, with the consent of the school board, the teacher union, and the district itself. Teachers developing these schools within schools would admit and educate the most difficult students, the students with the most issues, academically and emotionally. They would try and develop innovative new teaching approaches and strategies. From there, they would share their ideas with the larger school in which they were located and operated.

    Considering that many charter chains avoid taking students whose test scores will not make their schools look good, they avoid taking the kinds of students charters were initially developed to educate (students with behavior issues, LEP students, special education students, etc.). There is currently a copious amount of research that indicates many charter schools are actually in competition with public school. They’re in competition for the highest performing students, are known for not sharing information or collaborating with their public school counter parts. If our goal as educators is student achievement and professional collaboration that could help achieve this goal, this goal has been wildly violated by charters over and over.

    Then, they build a facade around this issue by stating that those who oppose charters and for-profit/non profit education organizations are also advocating against parent choice and expanding options for students.

    Get educated. Open your eyes.

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