From charter schools to vouchers, from distance learning to contracting out, America is in the midst of an education revolution that is moving forward on many fronts, according to Wayne B. Jennings, past president of the Association of Educators in Private Practice (AEPP).
Jennings remarks came as he welcomed guests to AEPP’s eighth annual EDVentures conference, held at the lakefront campus of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, from July 30 to August 1.
Why is real reform happening now–a full fifteen years after the warning sounded by the publication of Nation at Risk?
John McLaughlin, publisher of The Education Industry Report, pointed to the record 300 teachers, administrators, service providers, charter school advocates, venture capitalists, and educational entrepreneurs from across the nation who had attended EDVentures ’98. Real reform is happening now, he said, because educational entrepreneurs like these “have had the courage, grit, and heart to combine business and education.” They have bridged a gap between companies and children that over the last century has allowed a status quo education system to become an entrenched monopoly.
“The growth of free enterprise in education, after the last year of terrific activity, is making good on its promise to bring basic reform to education,” said McLaughlin. “And now, by linking business and education into free enterprise, we are changing the status quo of the education culture,” he added.
McLaughlin cited several examples of free enterprise progress on the education front:
- Charter schools have flourished, with more states permitting charter schools and improved laws in California and Florida;
- Many new businesses and expanded services have entered the K-12 education market, among them Children’s World and Beacon Education Management;
- Michael Milken’s Knowledge Universe now has over $1 billion invested in the education industry;
- Jack Clegg’s Nobel Education Dynamics is poised to take advantage of vouchers;
- John Golle’s TesseracT Group secured charter school financing;
- The Edison Project has expanded from 24 to 48 schools, with a line of credit from National Cooperative Bank;
- Venture capitalist John Doerr’s investment group, Kleiner-Perkins, has bought into Steve Wilson’s Advantage Schools;
- Private scholarship programs flourish, enhanced by the $200 million recently offered by Ted Forstmann and John Walton;
- The Wisconsin Supreme Court has ruled in favor of vouchers for religious schools;
- Polls show education is the single most important issue to voters nationwide.
“The education industry has reached a new height during in the last year,” said McLaughlin. “Education is now regarded by Wall Street as a bankable investment.”
Organized by the Association of Educators in Private Practice, Edventures ’98 was cosponsored the Charter Friends National Network, Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management, The Ball Foundation, and The Education Industry Report. AEPP’s mission is “To promote education reform through entrepreneurship.” For more information about AEPP and private practice education, call Chris Yelich at 800/252-3280 or email [email protected].
George A. Clowes is managing editor of School Reform News. His email address is [email protected].