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.


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.
IT Infrastructure & Management Webinar
From Chaos to Clarity: How to Master EdTech Management and Future-Proof Your Evaluation Processes
The road to a thriving educational technology environment is paved with planning, collaboration, and effective evaluation.
Content provided by Instructure
Special Education Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table - Special Education: Proven Interventions for Academic Success
Special education should be a launchpad, not a label. Join the conversation on how schools can better support ALL students.
Special Education K-12 Essentials Forum Innovative Approaches to Special Education
Join this free virtual event to explore innovations in the evolving landscape of special education.

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 Photos Six Years After Parkland Tragedy, Crews Demolish a Painful Reminder
The school building in Florida where a gunman killed 17 people is being pulled down. Victims' families have toured the site with lawmakers to push for change.
4 min read
Students, teachers, victims' families and passersby watch, Friday, June 14, 2024, as crews start the demolition of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School building where 17 people died in the 2018 mass shooting in Parkland, Fla. Officials plan to complete the weeks-long project before the school's 3,300 students return in August from summer vacation.
Students, teachers, and victims' families are among those watching on June 14, 2024, as crews start the demolition of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School building in Parkland, Fla., where 17 people died in the 2018 mass shooting. Officials plan to complete the weeks-long project before students return from summer vacation.
Wilfredo Lee/AP
School & District Management Download 'Science of Reading' Learning Walks: 4 Things for Principals to Look For
An instructional guide for school leaders to help implement shifts in reading practices.
1 min read
Photograph of a Black male teacher in the classroom with clipboard observing elementary students.
School & District Management Opinion 4 Things School Leaders Should Do Before Setting Priorities
Sweeping language doesn't offer a road map for the school community. Here's why.
Peter DeWitt & Michael Nelson
4 min read
Screenshot 2024 06 12 at 7.16.56 AM
School & District Management As Districts Weigh 4-Day Weeks, Research Overlooks Their Most Pressing Questions
A new, searchable dashboard will help district leaders explore research on four-day school weeks.
4 min read
Illustration of people around a very large flip calendar with Mon-Thursday highlighted in red squares. The concept of task planning. People are engaged in planning a calendar schedule.