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Charter Schools: How Putting Profits Before Education in Public Schools Failed

By Victor Trammell

Nationally accredited school districts across the U.S. appear to have the wrong idea when it comes to the most fundamental aspects of public education.

Firstly, it comes down to how the duty of those in leadership is defined. School district superintendents deal with the same expectations that business executives have. School board members collectively deal with each school in their district much like how advisors interact with their clients in the financial services industry.

Another external element that doesn’t help is the language used by media personalities when describing the need for “competitiveness” among the nation’s school systems. Charter schools were started in districts across the nation as an alternative to public K-12 schools with free tuition.

Regardless of the realities inside the “win at all costs” mentality and environment driving public education nationally, many for-profit charter schools in states across the U.S. are failing. A recent analysis of charter school progress in several U.S. states was written by Jessica Huseman, a member of the Teacher Project.

The Teacher Project is an initiative for conducive reporting on education, which was organized by Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Huseman’s recent report, which was published in Slate Magazine thoroughly exposed how prioritizing profitability over learning harms public education.

The for-profit charter school movement in the nation’s public school districts started to largely take shape in the mid-1990s. However, mixing the demanding element of private corporation dynamics has proven to be unsuccessful for the most part.

For an example, in the U.S. state of New York, many of the charter schools ended up closing their doors after investors grew weary of not being able to turn a profit. Not only that, the educational quality of these schools was consistently poor.

Steve Wilson was formerly the CEO of Advantage and is currently president of Ascend Learning. This organization is a nonprofit charter school chain in Brooklyn, New York. He is also the author of a book called Learning on the Job: When Business Takes On Public Schools.

According to, Wilson believes that the failure of charter schools has little to do with dollars and cents. “It’s bad curriculum, it’s weak teaching, it’s poor pedagogy,” Wilson was quoted as saying. “All of those things have to be fixed and changed—and we knew very little about that then,” he continued.

However, some U.S. states get the picture. New York, Mississippi, Washington, Tennessee, New Mexico, and Rhode Island have banned districts from allowing for-profit to managers to run charter schools.

As charter schools have largely proven to be no more effective than free public schools, other U.S. states may follow suit with similar bans of the for-profit management of charter school systems.


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One thought on “Charter Schools: How Putting Profits Before Education in Public Schools Failed

  1. Cee Jay

    I don’t agree with that summation. Many charter schools are thriving. I teach at a first year charter school and I know that our curriculum is rigorous and complex at times. We as the teachers are using effective strategies to help our students thrive in the rigor. It’s an adjustment for sure but the goal is to provide our students with a solid education.

    Please don’t believe all the hype. Just as some public abd private schools aren’t performing, some charter schools aren’t either. Vice versa


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