Public can speak tonight on school privatization

May 25, 1994|By Gary Gately | Gary Gately,Sun Staff Writer

Baltimore residents will get a chance tonight to tell lawmakers and school officials what they think of the city's school privatization venture.

City Council members will hear testimony on Education Alternatives Inc.'s work in a dozen city schools -- and prospects for expansion to others -- at a public meeting beginning at 5 p.m. in City Council chambers.

Superintendent Walter G. Amprey and EAI Chairman John Golle are scheduled to speak before hearing testimony and fielding questions.

The meeting, called by Councilman Carl Stokes, chairman of the Education and Human Resources Committee, comes amid mounting resistance to expanding the company's role in city schools before a formal evaluation.

The company began running the nine "Tesseract" schools in 1992 after signing a five-year contract worth about $27 million in the first year.

EAI since has signed five-year contracts giving it control of noninstructional services at three other city schools, and school system officials are considering allowing the company to take control of daily management at three more schools.

Dr. Amprey has said he is pleased with the company's progress and that academic performance and attendance will improve while disruptions are reduced.

Mr. Stokes said many of his constituents have questioned why the superintendent insists on expanding the role of EAI and other outsiders in the Baltimore system.

"It's coming from all quarters now," Mr. Stokes said. "Even people who first supported EAI are asking the question, 'How come our own people can't run our own schools?' "

The superintendent is proceeding with the possible expansion despite mounting opposition.

Critics say the schools run by EAI enjoy an unfair advantage because they receive much more money per pupil.

The 8,500-member city union's parent, the American Federation of Teachers, and the National Education Association have mounted a high-profile campaign against EAI.

Recently, a growing number of lawmakers, parents and community activists have opposed expansion of the company's role before its progress is formally evaluated.

School budget officials note that per-pupil spending at all of the schools has increased since EAI took over their management.

Despite that spending, a recent AFT report says, test scores fell and class sizes grew at Tesseract schools.

The Baltimore union has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the privatization experiment, and the AFT is asking the Clinton administration to investigate whether EAI violated federal law by cutting services for disabled and poor students at Tesseract schools.

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