HARTFORD, Conn. -- Baltimore Superintendent Walter G. Amprey took his pitch for privatizing schools on the road last night, telling the City Council here he would like to turn over all his city's 177 public schools to Education Alternatives Inc.
Dr. Amprey repeatedly told the council, which is considering turning over Hartford's 32 schools to the Minneapolis company, that if he had his way, EAI would be running all of Baltimore's schools.
That stands in sharp contrast to his public statements in Baltimore, where the superintendent has repeatedly said he had no desire for large-scale privatization. Instead, he has said repeatedly, EAI should serve as a model of how to run schools effectively that could be applied districtwide.
"I'm going to save my kids by adding schools," Dr. Amprey said. "If I could have done it the systemwide approach, it would have been easier."
His comments riled the Baltimore Teachers Union.
"I'm shocked; I'm completely astounded," said Linda Prudente, the union's spokeswoman. "That's an absurd statement. We are adamantly opposed to any further EAI expansion in the schools, and we believe [EAI] should be evaluated further."
Dr. Amprey had sharp words for the union and its high-profile campaign against EAI.
"I came here because I want you to hear the truth. What is happening in Baltimore is being distorted," he said, referring to criticism from the BTU and its parent union, the American Federation of Teachers.
"You think about why they are arguing against us. Why? . . . This approach calls for accountability of performance. By doing this [signing on EAI], it will cause things to change forever."
EAI flew in Dr. Amprey, his wife and four other aides. Council members said they found him persuasive.
EAI has aggressively marketed its services throughout the country for three years but has failed to sign any contracts since taking over the nine "Tesseract" schools in Baltimore in 1992. It has since taken on noninstructional services at three more Baltimore schools.
Dr. Amprey told the seven members of the council present that Baltimore has been expanding its relationship with EAI, and parents are happy with what is happening in EAI-run schools. They are teaching Baltimore how to spend its money on schools better, he said.
Education Alternatives would like to run Hartford's 32 schools and manage its $171 million annual budget. To do this, both the council and the board of education must approve the proposal -- and, according to the city's top lawyer, the proposal also must be put out for bid to allow other firms to compete.
With a roomful of about 75 teachers wearing stickers opposing EAI watching him, company Chairman John Golle said no one would lose a job if EAI is hired in Hartford. He pledged more teacher training, more dollars for the classroom -- including money for more computers -- and schools that share in decision making.