Lawsuit filed to stop Edison school takeover

PHILADELPHIA – At a Dec. 17 press conference here, hosted by the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, the Coalition to Keep our Public Schools Public announced that it will file a lawsuit in Commonwealth Court and Superior Court seeking an injunction to against Edison Schools, Inc. They are seeking to bar Edison a for-profit school management corporation, from participating in or profiting from any contract with the state of Pennsylvania in the state takeover of the Philadelphia public schools.

Ralph Teti, the attorney for the Coalition to Keep our Public Schools Public, called the hiring of Edison an conflict of interest under the Pennsylvania Adverse Interest Act. “This law states that if you are a consultant for he state and you recommend a course of action or agreement, you cannot have an interest or benefit from it,” said Teti.

Last week, acting Gov. Mark Schweiker met with Edison to finalize a contract that would pay Edison $101 million over six years for consulting, recruiting and intellectual property. Former Gov. Tom Ridge hired Edison, at a $2.7 million cost to taxpayers, to do an assessment of the Philadelphia public schools and recommend options for improvement. Edison proposed that private management companies, such as itself, should be hired to help run the schools.

NAACP President J. Whyatt Mondesire called the lawsuit a message to City Hall and Harrisburg that the opposition to a state takeover has not changed. The takeover of the School District of Philadelphia is scheduled for Dec. 22.

The coalition has also filed a lawsuit to void Act 46, which was passed in 1998 without public hearings and set up the School District of Philadelphia for state takeover if it has a deficit.

In October, Act 46 was amended to dismiss the school Board and replace it with a school reform commission, four members appointed by the governor and one by the mayor for terms of five to seven years. Jim Nevels, an investment advisor and a Republican, is slated to be the interim chair of the commission. The commission can nullify all non-professional contracts with the district, such as those with the unions representing custodial workers, bus drivers, mechanics and cafeteria workers. The commission also has the power to levy tax, appoint a CEO and hire private companies to run 60 schools. Edison has been named as one of those companies.