NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 10, 2007

A new model for private schooling finds that the best way to teach special education students would be to turn a profit while doing it, says Mark Claypool, founder of Educational Services of America (ESA).

ESA is one of the few companies even attempting to make money by running special education private schools:

  • ESA schools offer instruction for students with many kinds of disabilities, from mental retardation to high-functioning autism.
  • One of its rapidly growing programs helps high school special education graduates who want college degrees.
  • The College Living Experience, which soon will have six campuses nationwide, allows students to live in their own apartments while teaching them how to shop for groceries, eat at restaurants and dress appropriately.

ESA's funding comes from many sources, both traditional and controversial.   The company gets some money from tuition, but also through vouchers and contracts with states and school districts, which have drawn the ire of some education advocates who say private businesses should not be getting tax dollars.

According to Claypool:

  • Public schools are overcrowded already and can't handle the additional challenges of special ed students.
  • ESA can charge school districts less per student than what they would get from the state. 
  • ESA schools run more efficiently because they don't deal with paperwork and bureaucracy; for instance, ESA teachers usually don't have to have state teaching licenses, something not allowed in public schools.

Source: Will York, "Private firm finds profits in special ed," Fresno Bee, September 7, 2007.


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