Sunday, June 16, 2002

"Edison Revisited"

Daryl Cobranchi links to my Reason Public Policy Institute commentary on privatization versus school choice. I think Daryl misinterprets my amazement that Chris Whittle keeps emerging from battles with school unions and keeps convincing others to invest in Edison as an endorsement. It is amazing that he just secured millions more in venture capital and financing in light of the negative press coverage and recent contract cancellations. He must be very good at what he does (selling Edison’s vision) or education investors must be more gullible than the average bear.

The company has invested heavily in research and development to design strong curriculum. They are not short-changing students when it comes to material or school design. However, they have also not faced the true market test. As I said before, companies like Edison exist to the extent that government agencies award them contracts.

[Update] the Boston Globe article on Edison is very overwrought and pathetic. 1. Blaming Chris Whittle for childhood obesity and addiction to television because “Channel One” played in the public school classrooms for ten minutes a day with (gasp!) commercials.

2. Complaining that Chris Whittle can secure $40 million in funding while schools across the nation are forced to cut back because of budget constraints. It's just not fair! As Derrick Z. Jackson laments: "There is no Merrill Lynch for the public schools.” Please! Private investment in public schools and public school philanthropy is at an all time high. Annenberg’s challenge grants to poor urban schools and the Bill and Melinda Gate’s Foundation grants alone make investments in Edison pale by comparison. And while there may not be a Merrill Lynch, there are millions of poor saps sending billions in taxes to support the public schools. Whether state budgets are tight or not: the fact remains that school spending at the local, state, and federal level continues to go up, up, up. A $40 million round of financing is a drop in the bucket compared to Title I's $2 billion dollar increase this year.

3.When Chris Whittle misrepresents his financial status, the Securities and Exhange Commission is all over it. I'd like to see every school district in America forced to show that kind of budget transparency. Let's investigate and find out why schools do not have enough revenue to keep summer school open.

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