Budget & Finance

Mich. District Hires Edison To Manage Its Schools

By Darcia Harris Bowman — February 23, 2000 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Unable to stem a steady exodus of students from their classrooms, leaders of a small urban district in Michigan decided last week to hire Edison Schools Inc. to run all of their schools.

A five-year contract between the Inkster, Mich., school board and the for-profit school management company is expected to be made final next month. The arrangement, under which Edison will manage everything from the district’s finances and staffing to curriculum development and instruction, follows now-defunct systemwide arrangements in two other districts that involved for-profit companies.

“There was the unmistakable sense that history was being made,” said David Arsen, a professor of political economy at Michigan State University who researches school choice and witnessed the board’s 5-1 vote.

While a growing number of districts are hiring private companies like Edison to run individual schools, only two other than Inkster have turned to them for systemwide management. In both cases, the results were mixed.

Public Strategies Group Inc. served as the Minneapolis district’s superintendent from 1993 to 1997. Education Alternatives Inc., now called Tesseract Group Inc., controlled the Hartford, Conn., district’s budget from 1994 to 1996.

‘Ripple Effect’

Turning to a private company was not Inkster’s first choice. But fearing a state takeover, district leaders believed they had no other options.

Inkster lost 15 percent of its enrollment between fall 1998 and fall 1999, and fewer than 1,500 students remain. The district had a $1.9 million budget deficit going into this year, out of a total budget of $12.8 million, but the state refused to approve its plan to reduce its shortfall.

“With that loss of students over the last year and the decrease in revenue that went with it, everything we’d done to improve our financial situation was gone,” interim Superintendent Terry Ann Boguth said last week.

The decline of the district in a predominantly black suburb of Detroit is being blamed on a number of problems—dismal test scores and attendance rates, population decline, a stagnant real estate market, and changes in state law that prevent districts from increasing school taxes, to name a few. (“Facing an Uncertain Future Under Choice,” Sept. 29, 1999.)

But some observers point to school choice as the deciding factor. Inkster parents can move their children out of the district and into any one of eight nearby charter schools. Under state law, students can also transfer to traditional public schools in other districts with open enrollment.

“This is the ripple effect at its best,” said Jeanne Allen, the president of the Washington-based Center for Education Reform, which supports school choice. Inkster “had been losing students for years, but charter schools pushed them over the edge.”

Enter Edison Schools, a publicly held, New York City-based company. Edison operates 79 schools in 35 cities, but this will be its first try at managing an entire district.

The company has promised to wipe out the Inkster district’s debt and plow $4.5 million into start-up costs, such as new curriculum materials, computers, facility improvements, professional development for staff members, and employee-separation costs.

Deborah M. McGriff

“We have multiple goals,” said Deborah M. McGriff, an executive vice president of Edison. “We want to improve the academic performance of the students who are there.

We want to improve the fiscal stability of the district. And because they have lost so many children to other choices, we want to improve enrollment.”

A version of this article appeared in the February 23, 2000 edition of Education Week as Mich. District Hires Edison To Manage Its Schools

Events

Classroom Technology Webinar How Pandemic Tech Is (and Is Not) Transforming K-12 Schools
The COVID-19 pandemic—and the resulting rise in virtual learning and big investments in digital learning tools— helped educators propel their technology skills to the next level. Teachers have become more adept at using learning management
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
Using Integrated Analytics To Uncover Student Needs
Overwhelmed by data? Learn how an integrated approach to data analytics can help.

Content provided by Instructure
School & District Management Live Online Discussion Principal Overload: How to Manage Anxiety, Stress, and Tough Decisions
According to recent surveys, more than 40 percent of principals are considering leaving their jobs. With the pandemic, running a school building has become even more complicated, and principals' workloads continue to grow. f we

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Budget & Finance Schools Had Plans for Federal Relief Aid. The Delta Variant Upended Them
Districts planned to spend federal funds on HVAC upgrades and new technology—but some are now redirecting money to face the Delta variant.
5 min read
Orchard Knob Middle School Assistant Principal Michael Calloway squirts sanitizer onto students hands as they arrive for the first day of school at Orchard Knob Middle School, in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021.
Orchard Knob Middle School Assistant Principal Michael Calloway squirts sanitizer on students' hands as they arrive for the first day of classes at the Chattanooga, Tenn., school.
Robin Rudd/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP
Budget & Finance Why Failing to Require Masks Could Cost Districts Millions Later
Some insurance providers are threatening to cancel districts' coverage this school year—particularly if they break statewide mask mandates.
9 min read
Image of a dial that assesses problems, dangers, risks, and liabilities.
iStock/Getty
Budget & Finance Will Teachers Get Vaccinated for $1,000?
More and more districts are offering cash to employees who get vaccinated, hoping that the money will help tamp down COVID-19 spread.
6 min read
Image of a dollar bill folded into an upward arrow.
ImagePixel/iStock/Getty
Budget & Finance Opinion Three Tips for Spending COVID-19 Funds in Evidence-Based Ways
If COVID-19 funds targeted for evidence-based practices are going to deliver, it's crucial to be clear on what evidence is actually helpful.
3 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty