Edison Schools' Failure
By Arnold Kling
Edison learned what career educators have always known: Managing schools isn’t as simple as it first might seem. The idea behind for-profit public education was that districts would turn over school budgets to Edison, plus supplemental funds meant to offset the costs of educating a population that was, in Philadelphia’s case, 70 percent low-income and 80-percent non-white. Edison was supposed to run an über-efficient operation and pocket the surplus. But it never worked that way.
I would say, “One down, hundreds more to go.” That is, it could take hundreds of failures to learn what, if anything, works in education. What have we learned from public schools? Only that the larger the proportion of students who come from affluent backgrounds, the better test results.
I do consider Edison a failure. It always struck me as a top-heavy, hype-heavy company, which made me inclined to want to see it fail. So maybe I am not giving it the benefit of the doubt–it still exists, after all.
But the failure of one firm is not a failure of the market process. And the fact that the public schools are still in operation is not proof of their success.