Charter management organization

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A charter management organization (CMO) is an educational organization that operates charter schools in the United States. Charter schools are public schools that operate independently of the local government school district.

A CMO controls all elements of the operation of the schools under its control, including holding the charter. By convention, a CMO manages at least three schools.[1]


Economist Milton Friedman in 1955 proposed that education could be improved by a universal school voucher program. A free market in primary and secondary education would allow consumers (parents) to choose among alternatives, stimulating competition and improvement. In 1974, Ray Budde, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, floated the idea of a charter school.[2] In 1991, Minnesota enacted legislation that enabled charter schools. Other states followed.

Some commercial charter management organizations operate large networks of schools.[3]

EdisonLearning was founded in 1992.


Non-profit CMOs[edit]

Many states have adopted laws that require that the holder of the school charter be a non-profit organization. As a result, the most common form of a charter management organization is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

Examples include:

For-profit CMOs[edit]

Wisconsin, California, Florida, Michigan, and Arizona allow for-profit corporations to manage charter schools.[4]

Examples include:

Vendor operated school[edit]

In some cases a school's charter is held by a non-profit that chooses to contract all of the school's operations to a third party, often a for-profit CMO. This arrangement is defined as a vendor-operated school, (VOS).[1]

Distinction from education management organization[edit]

CMOs in some usages are distinct from EMOs (education management organizations). One authority on schools, Stanford University's Center for Research on Education Outcomes makes no distinction between terms. In its recent reports it describes CMO -- non-profit and CMO -- for-profit.[1]:2

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools makes a clear distinction. CMOs are non-profit; EMOs are for-profit.[5]


  1. ^ a b c Woodworth, James L (2017). "Charter Management Organizations 2017" (PDF). Center for Research on Education Outcomes. Retrieved 23 January 2018.
  2. ^ Kolderie, Ted (July 1, 2005). "Ray Budde and the Origins of the Charter Concept" (PDF). Education Evolving.
  3. ^ O'Donnell, Patrick (March 3, 2017). "I Can charter schools turned over to Accel network run by former CEO of K12 Inc". Cleveland Plain Dealer. Retrieved 24 January 2018. All agreed that Packard, by having years of charter school management experience and by having a larger network, would be able to reduce costs and save money.
  4. ^ Huseman, Jessica (December 17, 2015). "These Charter Schools Tried to Turn Public Education Into Big Business. They Failed". Slate. Retrieved 23 January 2018.
  5. ^ "CMO and EMO Public Charter Schools: A Growing Phenomenon in the Charter School Sector" (PDF). National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Retrieved 26 January 2018.