Md. Picks Edison To Run Three Baltimore Schools
Maryland school officials tapped the for-profit school-management company Edison Schools Inc. last week to restaff and operate three Baltimore elementary schools that are among the state's lowest-performing public schools.
In a unanimous vote, the state school board picked Edison, the country's largest publicly traded manager of schools, over Mosaica Inc., another New York City company that manages charter schools in three states.
"We believe that Edison's previous experience and results, coupled with their specific plans and recommendations, make it the right choice for raising student and school performance at these three schools," state Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick said in a prepared statement following the March 21 vote.
The selection of Edison follows the board's decision last month to use its authority to take over failing schools under a 1994 statewide "reconstitution" policy. Maryland's list of schools eligible for takeover swelled to 96 this year, but this marks the first time state officials have followed through on the threat of takeover. ("Private Firms Tapped To Fix Md. Schools," Feb. 9, 2000.)
Edison was awarded a five-year, renewable contract to run Gilmore, Montebello, and Furman L. Templeton elementary schools.
It will be paid $7,400 a year—the average amount spent by regular Baltimore public schools—for each of the 1,400 students in the schools. Edison estimates its revenues would exceed $50 million over five years.
The deal also calls for Edison to meet specific benchmarks in areas such as student performance, attendance, and community involvement.
Edison has authority over hiring and will select principals, teachers, and support workers between now and July 1, when it officially assumes control of the schools. Staff members who want to stay in the schools must reapply for their jobs and, if hired, will work for Edison instead of the 107,000-student city school system.
The state and city, meanwhile, will make certain improvements to the school buildings, a spokesman for the Maryland education department said.
The state board decided to hire Edison despite an offer by the Baltimore Teachers Union to reform the three schools in partnership with the city and state, instead of having the state turn them over to an outside management company.
"We are disappointed the state board decided to go with Edison, but we're going to keep pushing our proposal for a partnership because there are other schools on the reconstitution list," said Aaron A. Pinchback, a spokesman for the American Federation of Teachers affiliate.
Founded in 1992, Edison manages 79 schools serving 38,000 students in 16 states and 36 cities.
Vol. 19, Issue 29, Page 3