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Countdown, Day 17: NCLB waiver frees up federal money, but it's no help in Philly

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When Pennsylvania received its waiver from No Child Left Behind, school districts around the state gained flexibility in using once-restricted federal dollars. But Philadelphia was not so lucky.

By law, districts were required to use 20 percent of their Title I money for Supplemental Education Services (SES) – generally, afterschool tutoring from private providers – and to transport students to better-performing schools. Philadelphia is scheduled to receive about $140 million in Title I funds in 2013-14, which is what led PFT president Jerry Jordan to send out a press release earlier this week, saying that $33 million could now be redirected to other purposes in the District, like bringing back laid-off classroom staff or restoring intervention and enrichment programs.

“Mayor Nutter, Superintendent Hite and the SRC must take full advantage of the flexibility offered by this waiver and immediately invest these critical resources into our schools and classrooms," said Jordan in the statement.

Philadelphia, however, never spent the full 20 percent on these services – more like $2 to $3 million a year, according to District spokesman Fernando Gallard.

Pennsylvania Department of Education spokesman Tim Eller confirmed that the state had allowed this, while requiring that the District allocate any money within the 20 percent to other uses allowed under Title I, such as class-size reduction and hiring more reading specialists.  

Gallard said that, anticipating that the U.S. Department of Education would grant a waiver for Pennsylvania, the District had not budgeted any funds for SES this year, meaning that there is no money that can be redirected to other uses. 


The School District of Philadelphia faces an unprecedented situation – uncertainty over whether it will be in a position to open safe and functioning schools in September.

This feature, appearing each weekday, is an effort to highlight developments and motivate action as we get closer to the beginning of the school year. We encourage readers to send us information about both concerns and breakthroughs to countdown@thenotebook.org.

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Dale Mezzacappa

@dalemezz
Dale is a contributing editor at the Notebook. She has reported on education since 1986, most of that time with The Philadelphia Inquirer.