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News ::
NYC Parents Vote On Corporate Take-Over Of Public Schools
20 Mar 2001
The for-profit company Edison Schools has yet to make a profit. How will the students at the five New York City Schools profit from this deal?
Free Press Newswires

March 20, 2001

NYC Parents Vote On Corporate Take-Over Of 5 Schools

NEW YORK (FPNews) – Parents of students in five of the city’s lowest scoring public schools continued to vote Tuesday on whether to turn their children’s education over to a private, for-profit business.

New York City School Chancellor Harold Levy struck a $250 million deal with Edison Schools Inc. in December to manage five charter public schools. Parents in the affected Harlem, Bronx, and Brooklyn school districts have until the end of the month to approve or reject the take-over.

Even as the New York votes trickle in, the school board of San Francisco is preparing to vote on whether to fire Edison, which has run the 506-student Edison Charter Academy in the Noe Valley section of San Francisco since the fall of 1998.

That board is investigating charges that Edison cut costs by sending special education students to other campuses, falsely inflated test score gains, and mismanaged employees. The San Francisco vote is scheduled for March 27.

When the New York City Board of Education offered the charter school management contract to Edison Dec. 21, the company announced to shareholders that it expected annual per-student revenue of about $10,000. There are about 4,800 students in the five schools.

Last week the school board for Las Vegas voted to bring in Edison to run six elementary schools and one middle school, a contract the company told its investors is worth about $35 million a year in base revenue.

As part of the Las Vegas contract, Edison is paid a flat fee per student and is eligible for federal and state funds. The company also said it must raise $1.5 million in private start-up money for each school by April 1 or it will not open all the schools by this fall.

Edison Schools runs 113 schools across the U.S with a total enrollment of about 57,000, but the for-profit education company has yet to turn a profit. Last year, though the company brought in revenue of $224.6 million, Edison reported a loss of $36.6 million. That translates to a loss to stockholders of 93 cents a share.

The New York City schools where parents are now voting are Public School 161 in Harlem; P.S. 66 in Crotona Park East, the Bronx; and three schools in Brooklyn: Intermediate School 111 in Bushwick, Middle School 320 in Wingate and M.S. 246 in Flatbush.

Copyrigh 2001 by Free Press Newswires
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NYC, Community vote cans schools for profit
08 Apr 2001
NEW YORK
Community vote cans schools for profit

By Paddy Colligan
New York

In late March, parents voted down a proposal by the New York Board of Education to turn five city elementary and middle schools over to the for-profit Edison Corporation.

Some 2,200 parents voted, 80 percent of them against the private takeover of public schools. It was a major defeat for the national campaign to present privatization as a solution for troubled schools.
Edison is the biggest of several private managers of public schools. While their own public-relations departments portray them as innovative, dedicated saviors of education, these companies are strictly for-profit operations responsible to their stockholders for their performance.

Edison's stock is traded on the NASDAQ. Its board of directors, including top executives, holds about 20 percent of its stock.

Major Wall Street institutions like J.P. Morgan SLIC and U.S. Trust Co. of New York hold millions of additional shares.

The schools run by these for-profit companies differ from traditional private schools in that tuition remains the responsibility of local governments rather than the students. For the five schools involved in the New York venture, Edison would have received $250 million to carry out the conversion.
The public schools involved receive about $10,000 per student, or a total of $50 million a year for the current combined enrollment of 5,000 students.

Edison and similar companies promise to both improve schooling and cut costs. Since as a corporation Edison has yet to show a profit, it has had nothing to share with the boards to reduce costs.
In schooling too, Edison is short on success stories. The company has operated over 100 formerly public schools located in several states. It claims to have raised test scores in some of its schools, but parents, teachers and community school boards have disputed its methods.

An independent study by Western Michigan University determined that student performance has been the same or dropped in seven of the 10 Edison schools it reviewed.

San Francisco, Baltimore

A report by the San Francisco Unified School District issued the last week of March charged that by using discriminatory practices and pressure, Edison pushed low-performing students out of its school in San Francisco in order to appear to have raised student test scores. The next day the San Francisco Board of Education terminated Edison's contract early, though Edison has appealed to the California state authorities.

The Maryland State Board of Education has a contract with Edison to run three low-performing schools in Baltimore. At a time when all eyes are on such experiments and Edison is trying very hard to establish the success of its role in running troubled schools, the state board seems determined to make Edison look good.

Without fanfare the Board has guaranteed adequate expenditures for 85 disadvantaged Baltimore students who need intensive--and costly--special education services. All 85 attend the schools run by Edison.

Services for students with similar problems are not funded in the rest of Baltimore's public schools.
Edison's board chair is Benno Schmidt. In 1997 Schmidt led a commission that ended remediation in the senior colleges of the City University of New York. Two years later New York Gov. George Pataki made Schmidt vice-chair of CUNY's board of trustees.

Schmidt's report claimed that ending remediation at CUNY would improve the system's reputation. Yet many highly respected private institutions across the country offer such classes to teach basic subjects not mastered before college entrance.

Complex social issues behind failing schools

There are schools that fail to educate children in many places, urban and rural, in the United States. Critics point fingers of blame at parents, teachers, administrators, students, neighborhoods, and the general social malaise.

Many U.S. schools are short on staff, resources and often space. High-school teachers in New York, for example, often have more than the contractual limit of 34 students in each of the four classes they teach. There are real physical constraints on how much attention one teacher can give to each student in a crowded classroom.

One solution to this would appear pretty simple: smaller classes. Funds could be made available to hire more teachers and build more classrooms, more schools, rather than privatize to siphon off already scarce resources.

But there are more problems affecting students' lives than could ever be addressed in school. Outside of school, students exist in the real world of early 21st-century America--they face poverty, drugs, social alienation, unemployment, homelessness, police violence, racism, sexism, and lesbian, gay, bi and trans oppression. Some students have serious emotional, physical and learning disabilities. Some are held back by past years of poor education. Many new immigrants lack adequate English-language abilities.

Many students face a combination of issues that are heartbreaking and enraging. It is unrealistic to ever expect schools to be able to address all this. Adding the profit motive will not solve any of them.
And that's the conclusion a coalition of activists from the United Federation of Teachers, community organizers from ACORN and parents came to in order to defeat Edison's attempt to privatize five of New York's schools.

- END -

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