"Only 12 schools, about 9% of the total, were operated by national nonprofit or for-profit Education Management Organizations (EMOs). By comparison, a quarter of charter schools natioinwide are managed by EMOs. In Michigan, nearly three out of four charter schools are so managed."
The National Association of Public Charter Schools says 22.5% of the nation's public charter schools are operated by an EMO or CMO (Charter Management Organization).
Colorado has been known to have more "grassroots" or "freestanding" than other states because that's how the movement started. Further, authorizers (local boards of education) were more influenced by their constituents (voters) than by a management company. It wasn't until the 2004 Charter School Institute law passed that management companies made an impact in Colorado.
In Colorado, charter schools are operated by a company include:
Greater Educational Opportunities Foundation: 1
National Heritage Acadmies: 1
White Hat Management: 3
The McREL blog states that the top 10 charter or education management companies are:
Edison Schools (97 schools)
KIPP (82 schools)
Imagine Schools (73 schools)
Big Picture Learning (68 schools)
National Heritage Academies (57 schools)
White Hat Management (51 schools)
EdVisions (40 schools)
Aspire (21 schools)
(tie) Green Dot (19 schools), Charter Schools USA (19 schools)
Due to some problems in the past with certain management companies, many authorizers in Colorado tend to shy away from approving management company-operated charter school applications. Most authorizers require evidence of community support as evidenced by a governing board of people from the local community. Moreover, charter contracts are made between the authorizer and the governing board, specifically excluding the management company as a party to the contract.
Oftentimes laws evolve over time based on a series of events. When the number of new charter schools approved dipped to a low of six in 2002 and five in 2003 lawmakers looked for ways to create more opportunities for charter school applicants to gain approval. Prior to the adoption of the CSI law in 2004 several attempts were made to create an alternative authorizer including institutions of higher ed and municipalities. Both of these models are used in other states, but Colorado ultimately settled on a state authorizing board (CSI).
Now an emerging trend in the state is for replication of existing, successful charter schools. These include the Cesar Chavez Network, W Denver Prep, Denver School of Science and Technology, and KIPP. These replication networks are commonly referred to as charter management organizations. Authorizers are more attracted to approving new charters with people they've already worked with and seen evidence of the school model's success rather than taking a chance on an unproven model or working with an EMO with established practices that may not easily conform to the district's expectations.
While Colorado may have bucked the national trend to use EMOs, it is at the front of the nation in replicating successful models. It's now encumbent upon charter school authorizers to employ best practices in establishing replication schools with true autonomy.