Private Management of Public Schools:

Early Experiences in Four School Districts

HEHS-96-3: Published: Apr 19, 1996. Publicly Released: May 20, 1996.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the experiences of four school districts that contracted for public school management, focusing on the effects of private management contract arrangements on students.

GAO found that: (1) in Baltimore, Maryland, one contractor used its average per pupil allocation to manage 9 of the district's 183 schools, implement an instructional approach, and pay employees' salaries and benefits, utilities, and leasing and maintenance costs; (2) the Dade County, Florida, contractor raised $2 million to implement its instructional approach in one school and hire principals and teachers, but the district retained its responsibilities over the school's budget, food service, and maintenance and repair; (3) in Hartford, Connecticut, the contractor received district, state, and federal funds to manage the district's 32 schools and made recommendations for improving instruction; (4) the Minneapolis, Minnesota, contractor served as the district's superintendent and was paid for achieving specific goals, objectives, and assignments; (5) while the school boards and teachers unions supported implementation of private management in Dade County and Minneapolis, there was opposition to private management in Baltimore and Hartford; (6) in Baltimore, teaching assistants with college degrees were placed in each class, students had access to more computers, and schools were cleaner and better maintained; (7) in Dade County, attendance rates improved, teaching assistants with college degrees increased, and students had access to more computers; (8) in Hartford, students had access to more computers and the contractor was in the process of repairing school buildings and installing computer labs in five schools; (9) in Minneapolis, attendance rates improved and suspension rates declined; and (10) in each of the four districts, standardized achievement test scores did not significantly increase or were not available.

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