The state takeover of the schools here has been called a state/city partnership because the governor and mayor reached accord while negotiating on a plan presented by Edison Schools Inc.

Last August, then-Gov. Thomas Ridge hired Edison Schools, Inc. for $2.7 million to do a 60 day assessment of the Philadelphia schools and then present a plan for reform.

Ridge and his successor, Gov. Mark Schweiker, have publicly praised Edison and spoken about its possible role in improving the Philadelphia schools. They have ignored criticism of Edison’s poor track record and inexperience managing high schools.

The original plan called for the central administration to be replaced with Edison Schools Inc. personnel. Insiders said the plan called for the outsourcing (read non-union) of custodial, transportation and cafeteria services as a cost-cutting measure. Presently these workers are represented by unions.

Some 96 percent of them have children and grandchildren in the schools. Mayor John Street refused to accept this and growing protest against Edison forced Schweiker to back down.

Edison needs Philadelphia schools desperately. Edison has never made a profit and its losses for 2001 were $38 million. Edison told its stockholders it needs more schools in order to become profitable.

If it can be successful in Phila., then other school districts will hire Edison to run their low-performing schools. Edison promises to improve schools with the same amount of money a district uses, but its track record does not live up to its promises.

Racial discrimination is a basic factor for the lack of quality education in Philadelphia schools. Judge Doris Smith’s Education Team pointed this out in a 1994 report.

The Philadelphia school district had filed a lawsuit against the state charging racial discrimination in funding. The suit was withdrawn at the request of Gov. Ridge, in exchange for state funds to keep the district solvent.

A coalition of school employee unions and community groups filed suit in Commonwealth and Superior Courts seeking an injunction against Edison for participating in and profiting from any contract with the state to manage any Philadelphia school, calling it a conflict of interest under the state’s Adverse Interest Act.

But a judge ruled that the School Reform Commission is not a state agency but rather an “instrument of the school district” and not subject to that law. The coalition will appeal. It has also challenged Act 46, the state takeover law which applies only to Philadelphia, but the Supreme Court has not ruled on the case.