AS SCHOOLS have grappled with the burden of reforming their administration and teaching methods, some districts have turned towards the private sector to improve their success and level of efficiency. These companies, often known as Education Maintenance Organizations (EMOs), will contract with a school district or an individual charter school to improve the quality of education without significantly raising current spending levels. EMO involvement becomes increasingly possible as more school districts switch to site-based management, the administrative philosophy that allows for more local control at individual schools.
While EMOs are still rare among US schools, they have managed to stir up significant controversy in the communities in which they have contracted. Critics argue that EMOs eliminate too many basic school offerings such as art classes and musical bands for the sake of trimming costs. Many parallels have been drawn between EMOs and Health Maintenance Organizations, which also often have reputations of making cold financial decisions at the cost of the participant (in the case EMOs, students instead of medical patients). However, smaller EMOs that focus on a small number of charter schools have claimed to developed a stronger sense of community participation between parents, teachers and students, making them popular with the families associated with them.
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