Soon after the Obama administration allocated billions of dollars in Federal aid to our Nation’s schools, dozens of new companies sprang up looking to capitalize on the funds. Under the rules of the stimulus package, school districts are permitted to hire companies or a nonprofit to help in the turnaround, but the availability of such companies is slim. Companies formerly involved in markets such as life-coaching, communication skills, and classroom technology skills are jumping on the opportunity, but many involved in National education policy are worried that these unprepared companies will do more harm than good. Dr. Rudy Crew, a former New York City schools chancellor, compared it to Reconstruction-era exploitation from carpetbaggers and charlatans: “Many of these companies clearly just smell the money.”
In June 2009, Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, warned that only a handful of groups nationwide had any experience in school overhauls. He urged many, however, to “to get into the business of turning around our lowest-performing schools. That includes states, districts, nonprofits, for-profits, universities, unions and charter organizations.”
Charter school management groups seem to be the most qualified companies for the job. Last year, Duncan expressed hope that these nonprofits would join the efforts to re-haul more than 5,000 of the nation’s struggling public schools. In an effort to combat the risks posed to school districts who hire consultants without the proper experience, the American Enterprise Institute, a nonprofit conservative policy group, issued a report last month urging that districts require performance guarantees, under which contractors failing to meet achievement targets would forfeit payments.
Though some companies are looking to capitalize on this crisis for financial gain, countless others exist that truly have the best interest of the education system and the children it serves at heart. It’s going to take a lot of work, but the stimulus package could be the much-needed change in reinvigorating America’s school system.