Seasoned educator Larry Cuban captures recent history of for-profit ventures into the education market with wisdom and keen insight. Despite continued failure, little has stopped corporate raiders from looking to gain a bigger chunk of the public money that funds education.
Cuban chronicles a number of ill-fated efforts to make the point and then offers this analysis.
I could give many more examples of for-profit corporations seeking to make money from operating schools through performance contracting when districts were flush with federal funds from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in the late-1960s and early 1970s–but I won’t. Failure in doing what seemed to be a fairly straightforward job–raise student test scores–proved undoable by some of the best and brightest business leaders of the day.
The problem is that applying business practices always sounds so appealing, in theory. Since everyone has gone to school, immediately rendering them experts, and most have graduated on to corporate jobs, expanding their expertise, all the corporate clap-trap starts to seem applicable in all aspects of life. In reality, however, the results continue to prove otherwise, but the allure never quite loses its luster.
The truth is market terms like competition, disruptive innovation, and efficiency really do not work at all in education the way they seem to in the business world. There are a whole host of reasons why this remains true.
Cuban finishes with a flourish, illuminating the K12 Inc. stock shorting story, explaining that destiny almost guarantees a boon for Whitney Tilson. More than that, Cuban explains that successful companies profiting in the education marketplace typically avoid the great hubris. They provide products and services for schools; they do not try to take over schools.