California recently requested a four-year waiver to relieve districts from a requirement to spend up to 20 percent of Title I federal funds for low-income students on supplementary educational services (SES) that are largely provided by private companies off-site. California argued that its schools spent about $507 million on these services over three school years, but found little evidence of improved student academic performance.
In light of this, the State Board of Education and California Department of Education proposed that districts be allowed to develop and administer their own programs, designed and monitored by highly qualified teachers. Since these programs would likely be offered at schools, they would be more convenient for parents and would enable teachers to provide feedback on student progress, the state said. However, districts that wanted to continue contracting with outside tutors could have continued to do that, according to the proposal.
“We strongly believe decisions about how and where to provide services to students are best made at the local level,” Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public instruction, said Wednesday in a prepared statement. “Districts are in the best position to design extended-day intervention strategies to provide assistance to low-income students who are struggling academically in subjects such as English language arts, mathematics, and science.”
Torlakson said he was disappointed the federal government did not approve the state’s waiver request. But, Whalen said in her letter that schools and districts can provide tutoring services if they apply to the state. In addition, she said the state has the authority not to renew contracts for providers that fail to meet state standards or are of low quality.
Bill Ainsworth, communications director for the state Department of Education, said Thursday that he would not comment on the denial letter, since it speaks for itself.
Congress is currently considering two separate bills to reauthorize the Elementary Secondary Education Act. Neither bill would require districts to set aside 20 percent of Title 1 funds for supplemental services. So for now California will continue to provide SES but should the districts wish to provide those services they would need to apply to the state as a provider. California is the only state that considers on-going applications with approved providers advised up to 4 times in a year, it remains to be seen whether CDE will rush some district applications through!
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