Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, writes here about the efforts by most Democratic candidates to avoid confronting the dangers of privatization:

When Democratic candidates are questioned about charter schools, many typically reply, “I am against for-profit charter schools.” Everyone cheers. Politicians have created a convenient (and false) dichotomy that says nonprofit charter schools are good, and for-profit charter schools are bad.

Don’t be fooled. There are now only 2 states that allow for-profit charter schools—Arizona and Wisconsin. California changed  its laws. 

However, 35 states allow for-profit Charter Management Organizations (CMOS) to run their nonprofit charter schools

40% of the charter schools in Florida are run by for-profit charter management companies. While the individual charter is a nonprofit, it can turn over everything from hiring, to curriculum, to financial management to a for-profit corporation. In Michigan, 80% of the so-called nonprofit charter schools are run by for-profit companies. 

To understand how this arrangement works, read this blog I wrote for the Answer Sheet on Florida’s charter schools. You will read about the Zulueta brothers who were on the board of an Academica charter school even while their for-profit real estate companies, including one in Panama, were leasing property to the schools. 

Let me shock you a bit more. The National Alliance for (so-called) Public Charter Schools recently gave the controversial profiteer, Fernando Zulueta, an award at its national conference!

You probably know the names and reputations of the other big for-profit CMOs—BASIS, National Heritage, Academica, K12 and more.

The question candidates need to answer then are:

 “Do you support for-profit Charter Management Organizations, and if you do not, what are you going to do about them?”

The most important questions to ask, however (and don’t let them off the hook), are whether they support the NAACP moratorium on new charter schools and “Will you stop the the federal funding of new charter schools?”

There is a reason the charter lobby never complains when a candidate says that he/she is against for-profit charter schools. It means nothing will change.