School Choice & Charters

Nonprofit EMOs Growing Even as For-Profit Sector Slows, Report Says

By Debra Viadero — October 19, 2009 1 min read
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Back in September, I blogged in this space about a report suggesting that the growth spurt for for-profit educational management organizations, or EMOs, was coming to an end.

Well, not so for the nonprofit organizations hired to manage charters and other public schools.

According to this report published last week by the same folks who did the report on for-profit EMOs, the nonprofit EMO sector continues to grow steadily. Over the 2008-09 school year, these outside groups operated 609 public schools in 25 states. The number of nonprofit EMOs has grown from five in 1995 to 103 last year, according to the report, which is a joint project of the Commercialism in Education and Education Policy Research Units at Arizona State University, the Education and Public Interest Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and the Western Michigan University College of Education.

Gary Miron, the study’s lead author, said the more-rapid growth of nonprofit EMOs may be due to the U.S. Department of Education’s emphasis on using EMOs to turn around failing schools. School districts may be looking in particular at nonprofits to help them achieve that end because they fear the for-profit groups will impose higher management fees. Some of the nonprofit growth, Miron adds, may also be due to the financial support these organizations are getting from foundations and private groups, such as the New Schools Venture Fund.

“Still,” he adds in an e-mail message, “my sense is that most nonprofit EMOs do not show up with additional monies to support the schools they wish to manage.”

Are you wondering which particular nonprofit group experienced the greatest growth last year? That would be the most famous one, of course—the Knowledge is Power Program, or KIPP. It boosted the number of schools it operates across the country from 57 in 2007-08 to 64 this past school year. Across the country, in fact, nearly half of all the EMO-managed schools operating last year were being run by large organizations, which were defined in this report as those with a network of 10 or more schools.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.