Educational Entrepreneurship: Realities, Challenges, Possibilities

For years, common wisdom held that aside from textbooks, the business sector had little to offer the world of education. But scores of educational entrepreneurs are now proving this belief false.

How big is educational entrepreneurship? Adam Newman of Eduventures estimates that companies would sell $23.5 billion in goods and services to K-12 schools in 2005-06, a 4.6 percent increase from 2004-05. The largest market is the $9 billion textbook sector; the "smallest" (a "paltry" $3 billion ) but most dynamic market is that of "educational services," including teacher training, tutoring, and managing charters.

Robert Maranto and April Gresham Maranto catalog the entrepreneurs running charter schools, from cooperatives like EdVisions or the Sedona Charter School, and education management organizations such as Edison, to "clans" such as North Star Academy and the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP). Clans like KIPP have achieved some of the greatest success, much of it due to their careful selection and extensive training of prospective teachers and principals. 

Yet state policies can be serious hurdles to expanding quality schools and services, argues John E. Chubb of Edison Schools. Just three states allow education management organizations (EMOs) to hold school charters, and only a handful (Ohio included) allow non-profit charter sponsors to contract with EMOs for services. Other states prohibit single operators from creating school "clusters" (see above), where one group could operate a group of schools under one governing authority. Removing such restrictions could allow EMOs to provide better services at a lower cost.

Educational entrepreneurship has enormous potential to improve K-12 education in the Buckeye State. Hess's volume is an excellent source for Ohioans yearning to know how.

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