Not Necessarily Cheaper – Or Better

According to those who would like to sell off large chunks of the services now provided by government, privatizing many public functions would result in both lower cost and better services. For some that would include the public schools.

Before you send up a big hallelujah! to that idea, consider this. A study in Baltimore shows that several schools being run by Edison, a non-government, for-profit company, actually cost more to administer than similar schools in the public system.

But they provide a better education than public schools, right? Not necessarily. The report also found that while student test scores increased at Edison schools, other schools in the city public system saw a bigger jump.

Among the findings of the report, scheduled for release this week: Edison, the nation’s largest for-profit school management company, retains the equivalent of $1,425 for each child it serves at Furman L. Templeton, Gilmor and Montebello elementary schools.

And its administrative costs per pupil are nearly twice those of the city school system.

The state superintendent of education, of course, "vigorously disputed" the report with this justification: "I don’t care whether it’s a for-profit company," she said. "They’re doing the job for children."

At a profit of $1425 per child, they’re doing a pretty good job for Edison.

Of course, this is one study, with one program, in one city. No one, especially me, would want to generalize this study to cover all efforts to privatize public education.

I’ll leave that kind of broad whitewash to those who generalize problems with public schools to cover every school, in every city, in every state. And then write it into law.