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Edison Enlisted for Philly Schools

March 27, 2002

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Edison Schools Inc., a for-profit company, is getting a leading role in revamping the troubled Philadelphia school system.

The commission overseeing the state takeover of the city’s schools voted Tuesday to let Edison advise officials on how to restructure the district’s administration, allocate staff, evaluate classroom management and come up with an 18-month plan for reform. The commission also voted to give 11 other groups, including an accounting firm and a university, consulting roles.

The proposal, however, stopped short of Gov. Mark Schweiker’s original plan to turn over the system to Edison, the nation’s largest private operator of public schools.

James Nevels, chairman of the School Reform Commission, said the plan will bring in ``some of the best management expertise in America″ to solve the district’s financial and educational problems, without giving up public control.

The selection of Edison in a leading role comes over the bitter objections of a coalition of parent, union and anti-privatization groups, who said the New York-based company hasn’t demonstrated it can run a large urban district.

``We know there will be controversy, but there is never reform without controversy,″ Nevels said.

Many details of the plan have not been worked out, including how much the consultants will be paid and whether their employees would replace public district employees.

Philadelphia’s school system, the nation’s seventh-largest, has 265 schools and more than 200,000 students and a budget of $1.7 billion. The majority of its students score in the bottom quarter on state reading and math tests and the district has predicted a budget shortfall this year of $107 million.

Mayor John Street initially opposed the state takeover before agreeing in December to replace his appointed school board with the commission.

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