FLINT —Will the Edison Project expand its roster of clients to include the Flint Board of Education?

The answer to that question is not completely in the hands of the Flint Board. The United Teachers of Flint (UTF) is throwing up one roadblock after another, raising doubts that the private, New York-based education management company will decide coming to Genesee County is worth the hassle.

Edison presently operates twelve public schools around the country by charging districts a fee per student. The company installs computers in every student’s home and, under Edison instruction guidelines, students begin learning a second language as early as kindergarten. Its first contract in Michigan came in 1994, when it was hired by the Mount Clemens School District in Macomb County to operate a school with grades K-5. Last year, Mount Clemens turned over management of a junior academy with 6-8 to Edison. This past February, the Mount Clemens Board of Education voted to allow Edison to also operate a high school, beginning in the fall.

Meanwhile, in Flint, the Board of Education’s plans to turn over two elementary schools to Edison was delayed earlier this year by the teachers union. The delay was caused by the union insisting that the Edison Project agree not to open a charter school elsewhere in Genesee County if it takes over the two schools in Flint. The UTF is also demanding that Edison include the union in negotiations with the school board, a precedent-setting "three-way partnership" that Edison is reluctant to approve.

On January 29, Governor Engler offered support for the idea of private firms running public schools. "There is very, very, very little downside risk and a world of upside opportunity and potential," he told reporters in Lansing.