Saturday, December 27, 2014

Why For Profit = Anti Student

Let me offer a simple explanation for why for-profit charters (like the one slated to take over the York PA public school system) are bad news for education.

You are leaving your child with a babysitter. You hand the babysitter ten dollars and say, "Use this to get lunch for my child. Everything you don't spend on her lunch, you get to keep."

Do you think your child is going to eat steak or baloney sandwiches?

Granted, schools are more complicated. Let's add a layer to our analogy.

You are part of a neighborhood co-op. You all put in money together to pay for babysitting for everybody's kids. Your neighbor Swell McGotrocks is in charge of the system, and Swell makes that same deal with the sitter-- only Swell stops by every day and picks up his own kid and takes her to Red Lobster for lunch.

You ask for accountability, so Swell says, "Fine. I will require the sitter to weigh the food and make sure that your child is getting at least eight ounces of food a day."

Do you think your child is getting eight ounces of steak, or eight ounces of baloney?

You would feel better if the deal were, "Here are ten dollars. Spend all of them on my child's lunch. I'll see that you're well paid, but spend all ten dollars on my child's lunch."

The anti-public school crowd is going to say, "That gives me no guarantee that the sitter won't buy ten dollars' worth of baloney and skittles." And they are correct. We will still need to keep an eye on the sitter. But with the spend-it-all-on-lunch system, we have the possibility of a good steak for my child. At the very least, we have not created a system with the strong perverse incentive to screw over my child's meal in order for the sitter to stay in business. In a for-profit charter, the students are the enemy, the obstacle to making money. The main management problem remains, "How do we keep these kids from sucking up too much of our money."

Note: It's not really any different for most modern charter non--profits, if the operators pay themselves outsize salaries, like Eva Moskowitz at $500,000+ or Deborah Kenny at Harlem Village Academy at $475,000).


  1. Jonathan Hage the CEO of CSUSA. last year operated just 58 schools but was able to live in a 1.8 million dollar house, sends his children to an expensive private school and a conservative estimate of his salary is 3.4 million dollars. His yacht by the way is named Fishin' 4 schools.


  3. The posts above remind me of this, another Curmudgucation blog, from about a year ago ( ) in which Mr. Greene writes, “This crowd will gain credibility with me the first time I pick up the paper and read about them marching into the main office of their child's exclusive private school and saying, "I pay good money to you guys in tuition and endowments, and I want YOU to become a pilot program for my school reforms. We're going to put all of these in place, here, where my child goes to school, so that I can show everybody else how great they will be."

    I just posted a link at Mr. Greene's e-mail which answers the question about what sort of education those able to afford it choose for their own children. The link is to a letter to parents about testing which has just taken place at a very nice, child centered private school. Take a look:

    The writer assures parents the data will not be used to place children in classes, or groups. There is no mention of it but I am certain the data is not sent off to a huge data storage center, either.


  4. Exactly, Peter. Why is it that everyone doesn't realize this?