Quick end to EAI experiment What next?: Critics of Education Alternatives Inc. got what they wanted.

November 24, 1995

MAYOR KURT L. SCHMOKE, an early supporter of Education Alternatives Inc., hadn't counted on this. One reason he felt comfortable giving teachers a big pay raise this year was belief EAI would agree to a reduction in its $44 million fee. He negotiated for weeks thinking an agreement would occur. When it became apparent that it wouldn't, he found himself painted into a corner he helped create. The teachers had their raise. Settling a special education lawsuit was costly. The legislature was withholding millions. EAI had to go.

This does not have to be a tragedy. The progress being made in the education of students at the nine Tesseract schools could continue unabated without EAI. But it's difficult to believe it will. EAI chairman John T. Golle concedes that the Tesseract schools have the right teachers and principals to go on without him, but he says three things will get in their way -- politics, bureaucracy and tenure laws. Unfortunately, Mr. Golle is probably right.

Already the teachers' union is saying it won't just step aside so interns now working for EAI in the Tesseract schools can be hired by the school system. Not while there are still teachers who have been laid off over the past two years and not rehired, says union spokeswoman Linda Prudente. And Superintendent Walter G. Amprey says he can't completely rule out more teacher layoffs while the system faces a $32 million shortfall. He says about 100 non-teaching positions would still have to be cut, even if EAI had agreed to take $7 million less.

Both Dr. Amprey and school board president Phillip H. Farfel insist they want no disruption in the type of education students are now receiving at the Tesseract schools. Parents and children have no choice but to trust them. But the two men must show more resolve than they have -- in dealing with politicians, in dealing with unions, in standing up for the children.

For the Tesseract schools to succeed, for any Baltimore school to succeed, principals must be strong and teachers must be good and they must be provided a safe, clean environment to do their work. Mr. Golle says he provided those things because he took a business-like approach to education, spending money where it was most needed and only tolerating personnel who could do the job right. Sounds simple enough. Dr. Amprey says he has learned from EAI. He's been given a chance to prove it.

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