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Some Charter Schools Pay Students To Enroll, Or Get Their Friends To Enroll

David Safier Oct 10, 2017 9:21 AM
A story from ProPublica came across my desktop today, For-Profit Schools Reward Students for Referrals and Facebook Endorsements. It's about a for-profit charter school in Florida where students get a $25 gift card for every new student they find for the school.
Such incentives are rampant among for-profit operators of public alternative high schools like North Nicholas, which serves students at risk of dropping out. These schools market aggressively to attract new students, especially during weeks when the state is tallying enrollment for funding purposes. They often turn their students into promoters, dangling rewards for plugs on social media, student referrals or online reviews, a ProPublica-USA Today investigation found. Some also offer valuable perks simply for enrolling.
It reminded me of a story Ann-Pedersen told in 2013 on the cable access program she and I used to put together, Education: The Rest of the Story (It's a three minute video if you want to watch). As her son was walking out of his Tucson Unified middle school toward the end of the school year, he was handed a flier promising him $100 if he enrolled in the new charter, Rising School.

Tucson's Rising School currently has about 80 students. So far as I can tell, it no longer offers students $100 to enroll, but it does offer them $100 if they have perfect attendance for the first hundred days of school. I don't suppose it's a coincidence that enrollment during the first hundred days is what determines schools' state funding.

And whether the money goes to students for enrolling or for having perfect attendance, that $100 comes out of the state's funding for the school.

I don't know if this kind of thing is common in Arizona, but like so many questionable charter school practices, it looks like it's perfectly legit.