Howard Fuller: Don’t be knee-jerk about for-profits in school choice, ed reform

Ron Matus


Count legendary school choice activist Howard Fuller among those who don’t have a problem with for-profit entities in education reform.

At the Black Alliance for Educational Options symposium in Orlando on Thursday, Fuller, who is BAEO’s chair, told several hundred participants at a first-timers orientation that “you also need to not have, at least in my opinion, a knee-jerk reaction to for-profits.”

“At the end of the day, judge something by what it does,” he said. “Don’t start by judging the label.”

The participation of for-profit companies is often raised by critics in parental choice debates on everything from virtual and charter schools to parent triggers and tutoring providers. It’s also an issue to some extent within the choice community. A few months ago, Rick Hess from the American Enterprise Institute and Ben Austin with Parent Revolution engaged in a back-and-forth on the issue after Austin suggested nonprofits are more likely to put children first.

Fuller weighed in after letting attendees know BAEO supports effective public private partnerships. Here’s the full text of his remarks, as best as I could hear them:

You need to be aware of public-private partnerships. And you also need to not have, at least in my opinion, a knee jerk reaction to for-profits. This is America. America is a capitalist society. … A lot of y’all who are against profits but who work for a nonprofit (are) able to work for the nonprofit because of the profits that were made to contribute to your nonprofit. …

Somebody jumped on me the other day: Well I just, ah, those profiteers! My thing is, nonprofits have made money off our children. And for-profits have made money off our children. They all make money off our children. And because somebody says they’re nonprofit, it don’t mean that they’re not lining their pockets with the nonprofit money that they get. So at the end of the day, judge something by what it does. Don’t start by judging the label. Try to figure out, what does this actually do? How does this actually impact our children? Some partnerships will help our children. And some partnerships won’t. But judge each of those based on what they actually do.

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