So what now?
the box when it came to school reform. But instead of innovation, school
honchos yawned, looked around, latched onto five perennially troubled
institutions and asked the parents involved if they wanted a private outfit,
Edison Schools Inc., to come in and run the places.
The final answer came in this week-a loud and emphatic no. Never mind that
Edison wanted to make the schools into showcases and was promising a big
infusion of computers and other amenities. The parental rejection is a pity,
but it comes as no surprise. In fact, the skids were greased early on to defeat
For starters, city schools Chancellor Harold Levy was always apathetic
about the idea. He could have included more schools than five on his makeover
list. He could have proposed more outside agencies than Edison to carry out the
reforms. He could have campaigned hard for parental approval.
He did none of these things. At a time when the system needs a dose of
iconoclasm, he is starting to come off as an organization man, as a guy who
wants to change thingsas long as he doesn't irk beneficiaries of the status quo.
Bear in mind: When he put the Edison issue up for a vote, Levy chose to use
the rules that govern charter-school conversions. Written to placate the
teachers union, these standards are notoriously tough. In effect, every parent
who fails to vote is counted as a "no."
OK, maybe Levy has the hardest job in New York. Not only must he breathe
new life into dead schools, he must recruit thousands of new teachers andstop a
drain of principals.
Still, we expect more of the man. Giuliani was right to call for vouchers
to relieve the families at failed schools. They would help the kids, and they
would keep Levy on his toes.