Special ed...for profit?

Filed under: Day Care & Education

The worlds of for-profit business and education seem almost fundamentally at odds. However, one man has managed to bring special ed services to almost 8,000 students -- and he's making money in the process.

Mark Claypool used to be a social worker, but got out of the business after watching one too many special ed students get ignored in public schools. Instead of giving up, however, he decided to forge a new path, and is now running Educational Services of America -- a for-profit company with over 120 private and charter schools in 16 states.

And, by many accounts, the schools are a success. They're working with children who have a wide variety of disabilities -- from mental retardation to high-functioning autism -- and are cobbling together funding from tuition, vouchers and contracts with states and school districts. Plus, because of the highly-specialized services ESA offers, for some parents, they prevent a far better option than the local public school.

Others, however, claim that parents lose control over their child's education when they place that child in private schools, and feel that expensive voucher programs only further hinder struggling public school districts. Some reject the idea out of hand -- saying that there's no way an organization that's out to make a profit could also be working in the best interests of their students.

While I agree that, as a society, we have to support public education -- what do you do when your child has needs that your school district simply can't provide? Is participating in the system worth making sacrifices in your own child's education?

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