Chris Whittle: still thinking big
In your book, you talk a lot about a specific situation in the Philadelphia school district in 2001, where the state took over and hired a half-dozen private companies, including Edison, to help it manage what was, at the time, an abysmally performing group of schools. This seems to be the first test case of the competition you foresee all public schools eventually engaging in.
What I think the greatest achievement in Philadelphia is, is not the performance of all the schools that are managed by the private entitiesit's the performance of all the other schools. Because all the private entities are only managing 20 percent of the schools in Philly. The other 80 percent are being managed by the district. That district is one of the highest-gaining large districts in America today. And you have to ask yourself, why is that? One of the reasons is that a leader of that district, a guy named Paul Vallas, I think very effectively said, "OK, everybody else in the 80 percent, we're not going to be outcompeted by these private providers." Competition raises all boats, in every respect. The kids were really the winners of that.