Private firm proposes operating tutoring services in some city schools Math, reading help would be provided

September 12, 1992|By Mark Bomster | Mark Bomster,Staff Writer

A private company could take over operation of federall funded math and reading services at up to five Baltimore public schools under an arrangement being discussed with the city school system.

If the city goes ahead with the plan proposed by Sylvan Learning Systems, it would mark the first time a private, for-profit contractor has operated Chapter I programs for a public school system, a Sylvan official said.

Chapter I programs are funded by the federal government and are intended to give supplementary help to elementary school students with math and reading problems. This year, 79 Baltimore schools qualify for Chapter I money.

This week, Superintendent Walter G. Amprey confirmed that discussions have been taking place throughout the summer, and said he is intrigued by the Sylvan proposal.

"Most important is the achievement gains that they could make," he said.

HTC If the Sylvan project becomes reality, it also would mark the city's second experiment with education contractors.

As of last week, Education Alternatives Inc., a private firm, began operating nine city public schools under a five-year contract that has drawn national attention.

Sylvan, a division of the Columbia-based Sylvan/Kee Systems, operates about 450 private tutoring centers around the country serving about 90,000 students a year, according to Douglas L. Becker, president and chief executive offi- cer.

Most of those centers are franchised and offer tutorial services, from preschool to college preparation, at $25 to $30 per hour.

In February, Sylvan began approaching several major public school systems about operating some Chapter I programs on a pilot basis, and found a sympathetic ear in Dr. Amprey.

Last month, the company submitted a detailed proposal to the school system, proposing to take over Chapter I programs at three to five schools, at no extra cost to the system, said Mr. Becker.

"We would simply be dropping a Sylvan Learning Center into Baltimore City public schools," he said. "We would simply be administering that particular portion of school."

Unlike the system's current experiment in private contracting, however, Sylvan would not take over day-to-day operation of other school programs or classes.

Mr. Becker said the company's proposal calls for Sylvan's compensation to be based on the normal, per-student allocation for Chapter I programs from the federal government, which averages up to $1,800.

Though the company would be ready to open in a matter of weeks, Mr. Becker could not say when a final agreement could be reached with the school system.

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