© Nebraska Council on Economic Education, Lincoln, NE


Across the country, some school districts are turning to private, for-profit corporations to run their schools. This role playing activity allows students to apply economic reasoning as they explore the costs and benefits of "for profit" schools. In their roles as school board members, community leaders, and others, students will decide whether to turn over the management of a high school to a private, for-profit company.


Public Goods
Private Goods
Economic Efficiency


Students will be able to:

  1. Differentiate between public and private goods.
  2. Analyze and evaluate various and positions on a public issue.
  3. Establish decision-making criteria.
  4. Develop a public policy based on a formal decision making model.


National Standard Number: 16
There is an economic role, such as provide for national defense, address environment concerns, protect property rights, and make market more competitive, for government in a market economy whenever the benefits of a government policy outweigh its costs.


One or two class periods

MATERIALS (Click for copies)

Activity 1 "Parents and Board Clash Over Chalkboard Management"
Activity 2 "Role Descriptions"
Activity 3 "Student Writing Assignment"
Visual 1 "Board Agenda"
Visual 2 "Decision Making Grid"


1. Introduce the topic of private management of schools by having students read Activity 1, the newspaper article. The article reports on Kumquat Falls High School which has been managed by a for-profit company.

2. Lead a brief discussion of the basic issues by asking the students to explain who currently runs Kumquat Falls High, and describe some of the controversies that are included in the article.

3. Point out the reference at the end of the article to a similar decision pending in the Stephens County school district. Tell the students that in a role play situation they will decide the future of Stephens County High School.

4. Assign students to roles. You need an odd number of school board members, and two or three students can represent the other roles depending on the number of students in class.

5. Give each student a copy of Activity 2, the Role Descriptions of assigned characters. Allow students time to read the role descriptions. Students who share roles can meet to discuss the information. After reading the material, each student must decide which of two options that character would prefer:

    1. Keep the present administration
    2. Employ EMS Inc.

Allow students to complete the first half of Activity 3 after reading their characters' descriptions.

6. Meet together as a large group following the Board Agenda: Project Visual 1. Serve as a parliamentarian, stepping in to maintain order, to ensure that all opinions are voiced, and to provide everyone a chance to influence the outcome of the vote.

7. Fill out the decision making grid on Visual 2. Have students provide the criteria for evaluating the two choices.

8. Adjourn the meeting and allow the board to vote. The board members should use the decision grid in their deliberations.


Announce the results of the vote; have board members explain their reasoning and have students who played other characters express their reactions to the board's decision. If time doesn't allow for discussion at the end of the first day, assign the remainder of Activity 3 as homework to be completed for discussion on the next day.

During the discussion of the result of the board vote, be sure to introduce the following issues into the discussion:

A. What individual concerns were expressed?

B. How were these individual concerns reflected in the final board decision

C. Ask reporters to describe what happened during the simulated school board meeting.


1. Have students look in the newspaper for similar collective decisions being made in their community. Students could bring these articles to class to be discussed or the best ones could be evaluated using the decision making model outlined in the lesson.

2. Have students attend a community meeting. Ask them to prepare written reports of the meeting, or use a decision making grid to identify and evaluate the choices discussed in that meeting.

K-5 Lessons
6-12 Lessons