Edison can see cut in schools, services

OFFICIALS FROM Edison Schools Inc., the New York for-profit school management company, yesterday said they would be forced to reduce the number of Philadelphia schools they manage, as well as services, if funding is cut due to the school district's budget crisis.

"That would be the only alternative. If the contract was cut by two-thirds, we would have to reduce the number of schools we serve and have to reduce what we do, both of which would be detrimental to the schools," said Todd McIntire, general manager for the 20 district schools Edison manages.

He was joined by Dwayne Andrews, vice president for government relations and J. Roberto Gutierrez, senior vice president, in a meeting with Daily News editors and reporters.

Edison is the largest of six management groups that received district contracts in 2002 as part of the state takeover of the system.

This year the six educational management organizations (EMOs) are set to receive just over $18 million in extra funding to run 41 schools. Edison will receive the largest share, $9.44 million.

But the school district is now experiencing its worse financial crisis since before the takeover.

Last week, the district's governing School Reform Commission approved a preliminary budget for 2007-08, which is balanced based upon assumptions to the tune of $186 million.

Schools chief executive Paul Vallas and the commissioners assume they will be able to find $103.5 million in spending reductions and persuade the state and city to provide an additional $82.5 million by May when the final budget must be approved.

Early cost-saving proposals have included slashing funding to the EMOs by as much as $12 million annually. Vallas yesterday said that while it's too early to talk definitively about what will be cut, he believes Edison should be able to operate with less funding.

"There's a lot of schools in the district that are doing just as well if not better, and a number of charter schools that are doing just as well if not better with much less money than Edison has been awarded," he said.

"It's competition. Welcome to modern-day school reform," Vallas continued.

The Edison officials, however, said their reading of the takeover legislation requires the district to spend the majority of $25 million in extra state funds on the EMOs annually.

Vallas countered that the money can also be spent on a host of other "private providers" such as corporations, universities, charter schools and also the Franklin Institute and the National Constitution Center, each of which helped create two new high schools this year.

"At the end of the day it's the children's money," Vallas said. "There's a lot of other partners out there in Philadelphia other than Edison who are willing and able to step up to the plate."

He said it was "arrogant" of Edison to suggest that they are entitled to most of the funding. *