In St. Louis, public and charter schools are in the business of recruiting students

With the dozens of charter schools and St. Louis Public Schools vying for students, and the state tax dollars that follow, the institutions have to act more like businesses, marketing themselves — sometimes heavily.

Recruitment has become big business for national charter school organizations, said Catherine DiMartino, an education researcher at St. John’s University in New York City. And there’s a simple reason why: “Because the kids equal money, and wherever the kids go, the money’s going to follow them.”

Missouri doles out almost $7,000 per student in state funding. If a charter school spends $30,000 on advertising, it needs to recruit four new kids in order to break even.

Education scholars say charter schools that are part of national networks pump lots of money into streamlined marketing strategies. Missouri’s charter schools are required to be nonprofits, though it’s harder to find exact spending amounts and budget documents for charter networks compared to traditional public school districts.

As charter schools court new students, so, too, must St. Louis Public Schools. SLPS isn’t trying to out-market charter schools, deputy superintendent Rachel Seward said, but it must “dispel myths” about the district’s perceived quality after a state takeover and loss of accreditation in the early 2000s.

Read more: St. Louis Public Radio

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