To the Editor:
Public education today finds itself burdened beyond belief. With so many roles to play beyond academics, public schools are finding it almost impossible to perform all of them equally well and without assistance.
Coupled with the growing number of responsibilities, public schools face high dropout rates and an increased need for special education programs. The American Youth Policy Forum estimates that at least one student drops out of school every nine seconds, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 68 children has been identified with autism-spectrum disorder. This means that special and at-risk students are no longer the exception; they are becoming the rule. To make matters worse, schools also face mounting economic pressure from state and local funding sources, requiring that district leaders do more with less.
The truth is, we’re asking too much for our public schools to go it alone. To rise above the pressure, district leaders will need to seek creative and cost-effective solutions to provide for their students, especially for those who are at risk.
An effective solution is for public schools to partner with private education companies to meet the needs of some of the nation’s most challenged and challenging students. Schools can benefit from the expertise of groups that focus solely on alternative or special education.
Private organizations work in cooperation, not competition, with their public school partners. Specialists who have expertise in educating at-risk students, and who can concentrate solely on them, help keep students in school and improve graduation rates. Whether the education specialist comes from a public entity or a private organization should not even be a consideration. The focus should remain on the student: What is the best education-delivery model, including public-private partnership, to achieve meaningful results for at-risk students?
President and Chief Executive Officer
Educational Services of America
A version of this article appeared in the June 03, 2015 edition of Education Week as Special-Needs Students and Public-Private Partnerships