Most EMO-operated charter schools have EMO-appointed board members. If not the entire board, than at least the majority of the board are appointed by the EMO.
Recently DPS told the Denver Arts & Technology Academy (DATA) board that they'd only deal with them on the charter revocation issues that needed to be discussed, not the management company (Mosaica Education, Inc.). EMOs are always at the table during charter school application hearings, contract negotiations, renewal hearings, and appeal hearings. Sometimes the charter board, familiar with having a limited role in governing their school, relies heavily on EMO expertise that they haven't had the opportunity to develop themselves. Moreover, sometimes the very credible, hard-working individuals on the charter board (appointed or not) don't know what's "normal" for a charter board member because they're only familiar with the situation at their school, which was probably already established when they joined the board.
Some EMOs are considered "for profit" while others are "non-profit." Critics say no one should be able to "make" money by running a school. Since several EMOs are backed by philanthropic organizations or individuals, EMOs are quick to point out that it could be 10-20 years before the school turns a profit and at that point it's a legitimate return on an investment.
Probably more of an issue, however, has been the rates charged by EMOs. I've seen 5-16% here in Colorado. But again, the type of service provided for the fee is a big factor on whether or not the fee is realistic. And ultimately, the biggest factor of all is if students are making sufficient academic gains.
Authorizers in the state struggle with how to interact with EMO-operated charter schools. Since several EMOs operate in multiple school districts, authorizer research includes the history of the EMO financially, the efficacy of the educational program to realize student achievement, and a review of the EMO performance agreement. Authorizers are almost guaranteed to ask how charter board members were recruited/appointed/selected and dig into how much individual board members know about their school. Once an authorizer gets a hint of a "name only" board member, I've seen charter applications torpedoed in minutes.
Not all school districts have updated their charter school application policies to keep up with the trend toward more EMOs in Colorado since about 2004. The CSI Request for Applications has a specific section for charter applications from EMO-operated schools. EMOs must submit a copy of their most recently executed performance agreement, academic data from their other schools, the last audited annual financial statement, and other related documents that would provide the board insight into the EMOs operations.
There are numerous advantages to an EMO-operated charter school, especially those that work well. Parents find it easier to understand the type of school to expect because the company has other operating charters that it has modeled. Business services, including HR, can be centralized, relieving the individual charter school of having to focus on these routine operations. There's typically good expertise for the principal to rely on with problematic situations and the EMO is available to help resolve issues when they arise.
Many EMOs have gained excellent reputations across the country. While some EMOs are regional, others have grown to the point of having upwards of 50 schools in numerous states. Some EMOs have established a reputation for focusing on quality academic and character development in their students.