Contracting as a Mechanism for Managing Education Services

Brief

Contracting as a Mechanism for Managing Education Services

February 1, 1999

Abstract

This policy brief describes key features of education services contracts between school districts and for-profit firms and discusses some management issues raised by these contracts. The information is based on the terms of 11 contracts and on interviews with the officials who shaped these contracts. The contracts were intentionally selected to be diverse. They include contracts from 1990 to 1998 and contracts with school districts, as well as with charter boards. One contract established external management control of an entire school district; other contracts focused on school-level management; while still others provided a limited set of educational services. The brief raises three observations. First, contracting out education management is probably not the easy solution to establishing accountability for student achievement that some have thought. Second, the value of contracting is likely to vary according to the particular needs of the school board. Finally, school boards having cost reduction as their primary objective will probably not find education management services a worthwhile alternative. (Policy Brief No. RB-28. Philadelphia, PA: Consortium for Policy Research in Education.)

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