Baltimore is considering a proposal that would allow a private corporation to run two city elementary schools on an experimental basis starting this September, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said today.
If the city adopts the proposal, Minnesota-based Education Alternatives Inc. will take over the daily operations of the schools. Education Alternatives Inc. is an independent corporation originally set up by Control Data Corp.
The company's elementary school curriculum calls for a 12:1 student-teacher ratio in classrooms, computer-assisted learning, an emphasis on the basics, maximum parental involvement, day and summer school programs that coincide with parents' work schedules, and a personal education plan for each student, according to a company fact sheet.
John Golle, the company chairman, already has spoken with Schmoke and with school system and union officials, according to the mayor -- and has gotten a favorable hearing.
"I'd like to see the specifics of it," said Schmoke. In general, the mayor added, the group's ideas appear to coincide with the city's own move toward giving more authority to individual schools.
The two schools have not been chosen, but the corporation's chairman "said he will take the worst of the worst," said Schmoke.
The proposal still is in its early stages and has not yet gone to the city school board, said Schmoke. A spokeswoman for the school department said a special assistant to the superintendent visited Minnesota on a fact-finding mission.
But the mayor, while interested in the concept as an experiment, was wary about widespread private operation of the city's schools.
"We'll take a look at it," he said the group's limited proposal. "But I don't think, in principle, we should move toward privatizing the entire school system."
Although a few privately run schools could be a useful addition to the system, said the mayor, in general the city needs "to get more money, to get our funding equalized so that we can simply do the basics for our system."