City Council President Mary Pat Clarke will ask the Baltimore school board tonight to designate nine schools to be operated under their own management with the same terms and conditions being granted to the nine schools expected to have private management next year.
Starting in September, the school system plans to pay Minneapolis-based Education Alteratives Inc., a private firm, the equivalent of the average per-pupil cost of $5,415 for each student at the designated schools. In return, Education Alternatives is to institute its Tesseract program, which features a smaller teacher-student ratio, individualized education plans, extensive computer instruction and parental involvement.
Ms. Clarke argues that, given the same funding and freedom from bureaucratic strictures, city schools under their own management can do the same thing.
In fact, she said, the arrangement with Education Alternatives is exactly what she and others have been advocating for years.
"It's all we've been saying we wanted, especially those of us who are parents, which is 'put the money where the kids are,' " Ms. Clarke said.
"The idea is to give us a chance to compete," Ms. Clarke said. "Give us a chance to set up nine schools with the same funding and flexibility given to Tesseract, so that we can have a real contest, whether the public schools -- given those resources -- or a private firm can do best."
Ms. Clarke's proposal would include six East Baltimore schools that are part of the Dunbar Project -- in which a high school, two middle schools and three elementary schools will form a single campus run by a single director and board of overseers. The project has the blessing of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, school Superintendent Walter G. Amprey and board President Philip H. Farfel.
The Dunbar Project, being developed with Johns Hopkins University, is set to begin in September. It will focus on a life sciences curriculum that begins in pre-kindergarten and extends to high school.
The schools are Dunbar High and Middle schools, Lombard Middle School and Thomas G. Hayes, City Springs and Charles Carroll of Carrollton elementaries.
Bids would be solicited to select the three remaining schools, Ms. Clarke says.
These schools would receive the same direct per pupil grants of $5,415 that will be paid to Education Alternatives, along with a 4 percent overhead for external administrative support. The schools would be run by Baltimore school principals and would be given the same latitude as the private firm in designing curriculum, staffing and budgeting its resources.
Ms. Clarke is also asking the board to draw up criteria for evaluating the two projects. "Let's set these 18 schools off on a contest of excellence," she said.