School & District Management Opinion

Following For-Profit Providers (I)

By Marc Dean Millot — September 27, 2007 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The Miller-McKeon NCLB II Discussion Draft would bar for-profit firms from nine school improvement programs in Title I, and many more throughout the law. I now understand why the Business, Foundation and Innovation panel of the House Education and Labor Committee’s Gang of Forty Four Hearings on September 10 was dominated by nonprofits. Somehow, some many someones on that committee have come to see philanthropy and nonprofits as the “supply side” of school improvement. That Washington’s edwonkdom is at least reinforcing this view is suggested by the American Enterprise Institute’s October 25th conference “The Supply Side of School Reform and the Future of Educational Entrepreneurship” organized by Fred Hess. It is something of a “who’s who” in the new education philanthropy and follows a similar conference with the same folks last year. Yes, a handful of presenters make a living in organizations that pay taxes, but a correct representation of the subject would have almost no nonprofit representation. I applaud the idea of the nonprofit school improvement community meeting in Washington, but the title is wildly disproportionate to their role. The closest analogy I can think of would be “Major League Baseball Sluggers and the Future of Intramural College Softball.” The latter title would be seen for what it is; that the former will be treated seriously by the education press, eduwonks and policymakers, says too much about the world inside the Beltway.

As a participant in, and an observer of, both for- and nonprofit sectors in school improvement, I find the willingness of Congress to rely on nonprofits utterly amazing. Philanthropy and nonprofits are at best proving grounds. With rare exceptions (like Success for All and, to a much lesser extent, KIPP, that tend to prove the rule) scale is simply beyond their capital and managerial capacity. It’s obvious that the committee staff hasn’t done its due diligence on the question of supply and its members are woefully ignorant.

On the other hand, for-profit school improvement providers have done very little to educate Congress about their collective size, scope and capacity. There’s been plenty of special pleading on behalf of firms (Edison, Kaplan, Sylvan) and segments (especially Supplemental Educational Services), but precious little consciousness-raising. In this respect, the Education Industry Association (EIA), Software and Information Industry Association Education Division and the National Council of Education Providers have neglected public education in the largest sense - and let their members down.

Indeed, one could argue that EIA’s March 2007 “Education Industry Days” meeting in Washington, typically focused on policy, actually reinforced the idea of supply as a nonprofit prerogative. How? By choosing the topic of entrepreneurship and nonprofits, rather than the more important matter of for-profit prospects under NCLB II, and inviting Hess to give the keynote address. The opportunity cost? Not discussing the role of the for-profit industry in the achievement of NCLB’s goals.

Even if for-profits have dropped the ball, there is no excuse for serious education policy analysts and legislative staffs to neglect research on the role of for-profits in school reform. And believe me, I have heard that its not done because it’s just “too difficult.” As a former researcher, I find that a challenge rather than a turn off. Nevertheless, it is hard to follow the industry, and for the next few days, I’ll share some research strategies.

The opinions expressed in edbizbuzz are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum Principals, Lead Stronger in the New School Year
Join this free virtual event for a deep dive on the skills and motivation you need to put your best foot forward in the new year.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Privacy & Security Webinar
Navigating Modern Data Protection & Privacy in Education
Explore the modern landscape of data loss prevention in education and learn actionable strategies to protect sensitive data.
Content provided by  Symantec & Carahsoft
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attend to the Whole Child: Non-Academic Factors within MTSS
Learn strategies for proactively identifying and addressing non-academic barriers to student success within an MTSS framework.
Content provided by Renaissance

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management How Have School Leaders Responded to the Trump Shooting?
When a tragic national incident happens in the middle of the summer, do school officials feel compelled to respond?
4 min read
A crowd waits for Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump to speak at a campaign event in Butler, Pa., on Saturday, July 13, 2024.
A crowd waits for Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump to speak at the campaign event in Butler, Pa., on July 13, 2024, before a shooting took place.
Gene J. Puskar/AP
School & District Management What Do Superintendents Do in the Summer?
In their own words, superintendents describe what keeps them busy while students are on break.
4 min read
Photo of woman working at office desk.
School & District Management Principals' Unions Are on the Rise. What Are Their Demands?
Across the country, principals are organizing for better working conditions.
8 min read
Illustration of hands shaking with smaller professional people standing on top, with hands in the air, celebrating.
School & District Management How Principals Are Outsourcing Their Busywork to AI
Principals are chipping away at their administrative to-do lists with a little help from AI.
6 min read
Education technology and AI Artificial Intelligence concept, Women use laptops, Learn lessons and online webinars successfully in modern digital learning,  Courses to develop new skills