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Education Can Be For Students and For-Profit

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Teacher Union “Cashing in on Kids” campaign launched on false assumptions 

CER Press Release
Washington, DC
February 27, 2014

Kara Kerwin, president of The Center for Education Reform, issued the following response to the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and In the Public Interest latest attack on charter schools:

“Performance-based accountability is the hallmark of charter schools and reforms aimed at improving student learning. It’s quite galling for the American Federation of Teachers and In the Public Interest to trumpet accountability and transparency in the charter sector when it is those same players that fight so hard and spend millions of taxpayer dollars on politics to maintain the status quo in education.

“Unlike all other public schools, charters must be proactive in their efforts to stay open. They must set and meet rigorous academic goals, and actually meet or exceed their state’s proficiency standards. Unlike the conventional public schools that intentionally remain under the radar, charter schools operate under intense scrutiny from teachers unions, the media, and lawmakers. In states with strong charter school laws that allow for objective oversight, it is clear that performance-based accountability is working.

“In a rhetorical gymnastics routine we’ve come to expect from teacher unions, this latest campaign against education reform irresponsibly suggests that profit and student success are mutually exclusive, ignoring the fact that K-12 education in the U.S. is a $607 billion enterprise annually.

“There are over a dozen high-quality management firms that are driven by capital operating in the public charter school sector. They are building public-private partnerships whose bottom line is for the greater good of the public interest. Their entire business model is predicated on student outcomes. If it’s not, they will lose business.

“By law, for-profit companies may only contract with the non-profit governing board of a charter school. These are public schools that are held to the same state standards, open meeting laws, and transparency. Open-enrollment policies must apply, and students that attend charter schools, regardless of the tax status of the organization that manages it, do so by choice.

“Education management companies bring investment and capital to the communities they serve, creating jobs, innovation, and cost-saving strategies. Most assume great financial risk on behalf of their non-profit clients to build infrastructure and facilities in communities that in any other industry would most likely not be considered ideal or open to business. In fact, like most charter schools, even those in public-private partnerships, receive on average 30% less per pupil than their traditional school peers whose management has no accountability or incentive to improve student outcomes.

“This latest attempt by the AFT to discredit charter schools is nothing more than an effort to stifle the calls for greater accountability in our conventional public schools that the American public demands.”