For-profit Charter Schools

Drew Arnson's picture

I am posting this as a question for the group because there are many schools of thought regarding this policy subject: Should public schools be operated by for-profit organizations?

Michigan has the highest rate of (~ 66%) of for-profit charter schools in the country. Nationally, students at for-profit charter schools have been found to perform worse than (Detroit Free Press) their counterparts at non-profit charters. However, a recent study (The 74 Million, study linked in article) by two prominent UM education/economics researchers found that students at the biggest for-profit operator in Michigan performed better than students at nearby traditional public schools. An important caveat to those findings is that the shown improvements were most profound in white, asian, and non-poor students -- extremely inequitable results. Students across this for-profit network are "consistently less likely to be black or economically disadvantaged" than the students at nearby traditional schools. It troubles me that especially since school choice is supported with the argument that students shouldn't be forced to attend failing schools, and it is clear that in Michigan, the schools with the fewest resources struggle the most. But if this charter network is mostly benefitting non-poor students, is anything changing by having choice?

I personally think that we shouldn't support for-profit entities entering public education -- it is a publicly provided service and debatably a human right, so I'm not sure there should be organizations in the sector profiting from public money. However, many believe if schools of choice are an accepted part of the public school system, we should allow competitive market forces give students the best choices available to them.

What do you all think, do for profit charters add to Michigan students' ability to receive a good education?