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Chris Whittle's numbers don't add up, according to the Jan. 18, 1993, issue of The New Republic.

Sara Mosle, a New York City teacher, writes that critics of the entrepreneur's Edison Project, which promises 100 top-flight private schools by 1996 with tuitions as low as the per-pupil cost for public schools (plus scholarships for needy students) have missed the mark in debating the project's impact. By taking its success for granted, she says, they've focused on consequences, rather than feasibility.

"Actually, public schools have little to fear from the Edison Project,'' Ms. Mosle maintains. The financial obstacles to its start-up are formidable, she notes, pointing out that planners have already quietly upped tuition estimates and have begun rethinking other selling points, such as teacher-pupil ratios. "Because Whittle will be charging substantial tuition,'' she suggests, "his schools will compete--at enormous disadvantages--almost exclusively with private and parochial schools.''

Private and parochial schools, moreover, can keep tuitions low by drawing on endowments and donations. Ms. Mosle claims that "Whittle must come up with an enormous amount of private capital just to lift his schools off the design team's table.'' She predicts he will be forced to cut services to make a return on investments and meet his interest payments, which by her calculations will be about $296 million annually.

According to Ms. Mosle's conversations with Edison planners, the most recent plans for these "lighthouse'' schools include cost-cutting features like larger classes, student teachers, and parent volunteers.

"Whittle's grand scheme doesn't look as scary as it does fantastical,'' she concludes, in an article that hints broadly that the Bush defeat last fall was a blow to Edison plans.

The recipe for "The Perfect School'' includes nine inter-related ingredients, according to the cover story of the Jan. 11, 1993, U.S. News & World Report.

The report cites innovative school programs nationally and distills reasons why they have flourished. Its "prescription for revitalizing teaching and refocusing the confused mission of American education'' combines elements of the following: testing for student performance, providing superior learning technology, allowing for choice and competition, slashing bureaucracy, extending the school year, giving teachers greater autonomy, rewarding them for innovation, adopting higher standards of teacher training, and stressing an interdisciplinary curriculum.--S.K.G.

Vol. 12, Issue 17

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