In New York, where the current betting is that Edison won't get permission to take over five of the city's worst schools (thanks to strong opposition from activists and a botched campaign by Schools Chancellor Harold Levy), the idea that there is something nefarious about making money by educating kids has also taken hold. "Edison just wants the money," student James Trimm told the New York Post. To get and keep the money, Edison will have to improve the education at these schools, but Trimm frankly has given up on that. "Even if they take over the school, things won't change. There's still going to be gangs and graffiti and kids destroying property. One-Eleven will stay the same." Just another number in the New York City cog, apparently.
Vilma Ticas, whose son was in Thomas Edison Elementary before Edison took over running it, could tell Trimm a different story. "Before, my son was passed from second to third grade, and he couldn't read," she told the Chronicle. Nothing unusual about that in demoralized urban schools. But, "Now he is improving dramatically."
Let government schools fail year after year, and activists cry only for more money for these failing systems. Let an innovative company move in and make a success, however, and the money it makes is somehow tainted. Shut down the competition!
I am not an advocate for private or for-profit education, just for education. There are some relationships the market can never duplicate, but the relationship between children, parents and teachers at failing schools is nothing to celebrate or seek to preserve at all costs. In New York, parents appear to be missing an opportunity. In San Francisco they are having one ripped out from beneath their feet.
Educating poor kids to read and write in safe, orderly schools? Next to waging ideological warfare on corporate profits of companies that threaten your education monopoly, who cares about that?
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.