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Study Finds For-Profit Charter Schools, Such as Those Backed by Betsy DeVos, Are Failing Students

The Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Standford University has found that for-profit charter school students perform significantly worse than their nonprofit charter counterparts, reports the Detroit Free Press. The findings are of interest and concern to those who have, for years, been advocating against charter schools run by for-profit companies, the very same ones backed by now Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

CREDO’s findings came on the heels of an investigation into test score data from 2011-2015 in 24 states as well as New York City and Washington D.C. While the results suggest the performance discrepancies are greater in math than in reading, it’s clear that for-profit charters simply aren’t measuring up.

In Michigan, where DeVos spearheaded a movement to move away from public education and instead focus on charter schools prior to assuming her current position, approximately 80% of the state’s charter schools are run by for-profit companies. And while Michigan’s for-profit charter school numbers greatly outweigh that of the nation, where for-profit charter schools comprise 16% of schools total, these findings should be alarming to parents and non-parents alike.


Because DeVos has made it no secret that her intent is to increase school choice nationwide, including opening up access to for-profit charters, which sounds better than it actually is.

The potential negative impact school choice could have on taxpayers and the questionable standards of accountability used to monitor these charters notwithstanding, perhaps the most concerning impact is the one school choice might have on students.

For one, charter schools don’t have to admit every student, nor do they have to provide transportation to potential enrollees. This puts children in lower-income communities — arguably the ones who might benefit most from school choice — at a disadvantage. Because these schools can legally discriminate in their admittance and are not required to provide transportation to students whose parents cannot, the very children in need of better educational opportunities will be left to sink into further educational despair when their neighborhood public schools begin to suffer even more as a result of the stripped funding and resources that accompany school choice.

And just how effective charter schools are on the whole — particularly the nonprofit ones that outperformed the for-profit ones in CREDO’s study — is up for debate.

Because charter schools can pick and choose who they admit, it’s highly possible the nonprofit schools’ performance is so high simply because they allow only high-performing students in their schools. It’s not that they provide a better education. It’s that they only educate the most privileged to begin with, leaving the ones in need of better educational intervention in the dust.

It’s a modern day Jim Crow, one that will only grow worse if DeVos is able to push her school choice agenda with the same vigor nationwide as she did in her home state of Michigan.

As a parent first and an educator second, this is all kinds of troubling to me, and I hope other parents still on the fence start to pay attention a bit more carefully. Clearly, DeVos’s charter babies aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, and while I didn’t need another study to further support my conclusions, the CREDO findings certainly are damning.

And if DeVos gets her way with school choice and voucher systems, we are, for lack of a better word, undeniably screwed.