Buzz

Suckers

Suckers: "Pigeon drops," home-remodeling scams, vacation time-share offers, the Texas state lottery, recording contracts from major labels. They're all obvious scams that no intelligent person would fall for if he or she just remembered one simple rule: If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Pretty basic stuff, huh? You'd have to be a real gull--a fish, a patsy, a dupe--to forget that one.

Or you might just be a member of the Dallas school board.

Buzz snipes at them this week after learning that Edison Schools, the private company that for the past year has managed seven public schools in Dallas, is being dumped by a growing number of districts nationwide. Schools in Northern California, San Antonio and San Francisco are dropping Edison midcontract or declining to renew, while parents at five New York City schools recently voted four-to-one to reject the unprofitable company.

Faced with news that Edison could cost the Dallas district $20 million more than projected this year, Dallas school board members nevertheless praise the program's educational plan and still entertain the prospect of expanding the Edison contract. Never say die!

Maybe Dallas trustees have not heard another basic rule that one should follow to avoid becoming a sucker: Don't throw good money after bad. Or maybe they're just incurable optimists. If so, they should sample whatever miracle drug was used by the school board in Wayne County, North Carolina, which voted to cancel a two-school Edison contract after learning it would cost $300,000 a year more than expected--an "annual adjustment factor," according to Edison.

Apparently, you can't easily expand school programs while cutting costs at the same time. Who knew?

Well, Buzz did for one--along with about 30 kazillion other people who are not part of the majority on the school board. What's happening with Edison here and elsewhere is precisely what officials in Sherman told this paper more than a year ago when hidden facility, transportation and security costs finished their Edison affair.

Meanwhile, as Edison shares take a massive dive from a high of nearly $40 in February to $18 on Tuesday, records show the insiders are cashing out. Company President and CEO Chris Whittle unloaded nearly $16 million in Edison shares in March. Ditto for J.P. Morgan, the mammoth financial services company, which recently shed $78 million in Edison shares.

At least they know when to fold 'em.

 
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