Edison Schools and the free market

Kevin Drum writes about recent news with Edison Schools, a corporation that partners with failing school districts in hopes of raising achievement.

Here's the deal: Edison Schools, the brainchild of Chris Whittle, is in the business of taking over public schools and running them with the efficiency and accountability that are the hallmarks of the free market. Unfortunately, it turns out they have been running schools with, ahem, the efficiency and accountability that are the hallmarks of the free market.
As is the case so many times, if two sides cannot even agree on the definitions of the terms through which they are arguing, the discussion becomes pointless. Kevin sees Edison Schools as a failure of the free market.

Although I see a true free market in education as the only hope for improving education in the US and the rest of the world, Edison Schools is not the free market. It has absolutely nothing to do with the free market. Edison Schools has partnerships with public schools, and as such, is a government enforced monopoly on the management of public schools.

What are some mechanistic hallmarks of the free market? Suppose I want to eat dinner. I should be able to spend my $20 on the food I choose. I can choose from a variety of restaurants - perhaps fast food like Taco Bell, informal places like Chili's, all-you-can-eat buffets, places with outdoor seating, fine dining, ... If I am not satisfied with the service, food, atmosphere, or price, the next time I take my $20 elsewhere. The restaurants have to satisfy me in order to make money and stay in business. Perhaps I do not want to go to a restaurant at all, and I decide to go to the grocery store and buy ingredients to make my own dinner. That is my choice.

With public schools, the government take the parents' money (thousands) by force and give them no choice in where their kids go to school. If the parents truly want to send their kids somewhere other than the public school, they have to spend more thousands to do so. They never get their original thousands back. They do not have a choice. Different providers do not try to go out of their way to satisfy the parents. If the parents are unsatisfied, they cannot take their thousands elsewhere.

Does Edison Schools represent the free market? Emphatically no. The parents' money is still taken by force to support the same failing public schools, except now, the 'manager' of the schools is Edison. The parents do not choose Edison. The schools Edison manages still have captive students. They do not have to make improvements and satisfy the parents in order to prevent the parents from taking their thousands elsewhere.

Edison Schools has nothing whatsoever to do with the free market.

Share this

This is proof that a

This is proof that a half-assed "privatisation" is often worse than the original statist setup. Another parallel is with the electricity industry in California.