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Florida Districts Seek Federal Clarification on Waiver Renewal

By guest blogger Christina A. Samuels

The clock is ticking for Florida districts to prepare for any changes to the state's No Child Left Behind Act waiver. And with what they say is little information from the state, a coalition of districts is trying to get answers directly from the U.S. Department of Education before the waiver expires June 30. 

Among the questions the districts are looking to have answered: If the waiver isn't approved, would districts have to start providing supplementary education services and school choice immediately? And what would be the timing on determining adequate yearly progress in a school when the timeline has been interrupted by the waiver? 

"We're in a vacuum of information, and everybody's speculating," said Cheryl L. Sattler, who is the president of FedNet, a consulting agency that provides assistance to Florida districts on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and the author of the May 27 letter.

Cheryl Etters, the press secretary for the Florida Department of Education, said that the state's waiver renewal application is due June 4 and the state education department is soliciting comments until Wednesday. But the waiver-renewal draft doesn't reflect changes to Florida education law that were recently approved by the state's legislature, Sattler said. 

Time is running out for districts that are in the process of planning spending for the 2014-15 school year, Sattler said. Students will be returning to the classrooms in late August, she said. 

"Districts in Florida are starting to write their Title I budgets for next year," she said. Setting aside 20 percent of those Title I budgets to implement tutoring and school choice, as would be required under No Child Left Behind if the waiver expires, "is a big deal," she said.

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