NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Future Of For-Profit Schools

February 3, 2000

For-profit companies which manage schools educating students in grades kindergarten through 12 are the educational phenomena of the 1990s -- and more are certainly in the pipeline for the 21st century.

As recent start-ups, most are still unprofitable or barely making money. And it is too early to determine through hard data based on test scores whether or when they can fulfill their promise of offering learning environments superior to failing public schools.

But it is clear their influence on the educational scene will only grow.

  • Currently, about 200 for-profit schools now teach some 100,000 U.S. students.
  • Experts estimate that by 2009, for-profits could capture as much as 10 percent of the $360 billion the country now spends on education in grades K-12.
  • H. Christopher Whittle, founder of the fast-growing Edison Schools, projects that in 20 years, 20 percent to 30 percent of U.S. public schools will be run by for-profit firms.
  • In addition, there is the alternative of charter schools, which are permitted in 36 states -- the number of which are expected to zoom from the current 1,700 to 3,000 as soon as 2002.

Source: William C. Symonds, et al., "For-Profit Schools," Business Week, February 7, 2000.


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