WMU Home > WMU News >

WMU News

Researchers find many schools run by nonprofits

Jan. 7, 2009

KALAMAZOO--A new report released by Western Michigan University shows the number of charter schools run by nonprofit education management organizations or EMOs is nearly equal to the number run by for-profit ones.

The report, titled "Profiles of Nonprofit Education Management Organizations: 2007-2008," was prepared by Dr. Gary Miron, professor of education, and Jessica Urschel, a graduate student in organizational psychology, both at WMU. The report was released Dec. 23 by the WMU Department of Educational Leadership, Research and Technology in Western Michigan University's College of Education, along with the Education and the Public Interest Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder and the Education Policy Research Unit at Arizona State University.

View full report
Profiles of Nonprofit Education Management Organizations

"Until recently, most attention has been focused on the for-profit EMOs," Miron says. "In recent years, however, more interest and private funds have been devoted to nonprofit organizations that manage charter schools. While concerns about profit motives are not as apparent with nonprofit organizations, there remain concerns about how public governance of these schools is being affected."

Education management organizations are for-profit or nonprofit groups that manage schools receiving public funds, including district and charter public schools. The nonprofit Profiles report documents the number of nonprofit firms managing publicly funded schools, identifies the schools they manage and records the number of students those schools enroll.

The report identifies 83 nonprofit EMOs operating in 24 states, with the greatest concentration in California, Texas, Arizona and Ohio. While growth is slowing in the for-profit EMO sector, nonprofit EMOs are steadily growing. The nonprofit EMOs include 13 large ones operating 10 or more schools, 34 medium-sized ones operating four to nine schools and 36 small ones operating three or fewer schools. The largest, by far, is KIPP, the Knowledge is Power Program, which now operates a total of 57 charter schools.

Altogether, nonprofit EMOs operate 488 schools, compared with 533 operated by for-profit EMOs. The share of schools managed by large, medium-sized and small nonprofits is more evenly distributed than in the for-profit sector, however. While large organizations manage 88 percent of all schools in the for-profit EMO sector, they manage only 44 percent in the nonprofit sector.

In another contrast, nonprofit EMOs are less concentrated among primary schools than for-profit ones. The authors suggest that the need to earn a return for shareholders may influence the focus of for-profit EMOs on less-costly primary schools, while the nonprofits lack that incentive to skew their focus.

The report is likely to be of interest to policymakers, educators, school district officials and school board members who wish to learn more about current or potential contractors. Investors, persons involved in the education industry and employees of nonprofit EMOs may find it useful in tracking changes, strategizing for growth and planning investments. Like the for-profit Profiles series, the nonprofit Profiles may also be of interest to journalists and researchers studying education management organizations.

"President-elect Obama's proposed secretary of education, Arne Duncan, has a record of contracting out management of public schools to private firms," Miron notes. "Therefore, we can expect continued interest in our ongoing research, which covers both for-profit and nonprofit education management organizations."

For more information, view the full report online or contact Dr. Gary Miron, WMU professor of educational leadership, research and technology, at (269) 599-7965.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

WMU News
Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
(269) 387-8400