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The Quagmire Surrounding 'Supplement Not Supplant'

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Yesterday, in a Webinar intended to clarify guidance on the "supplement-not-supplant" provision of Title III, U.S. Department of Education staff relayed four questions that school districts can use to determine if they are spending Title III funds appropriately. The Oct. 2 guidance for the section of the No Child Left Behind Act that authorizes funds for English-language-acquisition programs reiterates a provision of the law that says funds for English-language learners may not be used to replace money from local, state, or federal sources that would otherwise be used for this group of students.

The four questions, in the wording of Ron Petracca, of the Department's office of the general counsel, are:

What is the instructional program/service provided to all students?
What does the [school district] do to meet Lau requirements [arising from the 1974 Lau v. Nichols U.S. Supreme Court case]?
What services are the [school district] required by other federal, state, and local laws or regulations to provide?
Was the program/service previously provided with state, local, and federal funds?

Mr. Petracca and others explained that money from Title III can be spent only on programs or services that go "above and beyond" what is already provided to all students; what is provided to meet federal requirements that came out of Lau v. Nichols; what is required by local, state, and federal laws; and what services have previously been provided to English-language learners in a school district.

That last part, that school districts can't use Title III funds for something that was previously being provided to ELLs, was new to me. I didn't hear it mentioned, for example, at the session at the recent LEP Partnership meeting where Education Department staff tried to clarify the guidance. The staff did say yesterday that school districts have a bit of leniency on that last point, if they can show that a service provided previously to ELLs could not be continued for budgetary reasons without the use of Title III funds.

Mr. Petracca and other Education Department staff tried to answer a number of questions from Webinar listeners, such as whether the money can be used to pay for an additional English-as-a-second-language teacher in a school or if it can be used to hire teachers to change the student-teacher ratio in the classroom. But they weren't able to immediately answer "yes" or "no" to some questions because the inquiries didn't include enough information for the Education Department staff to make a determination.

Over and over, the Education Department staff responded to inquiries by returning to the four questions they laid out at the outset. Mr. Petracca noted that the four questions "represent the [Education] Department's current thinking on these topics."

About 230 people from across the country tuned in to the Webinar. I bet I wasn't the only listener who was thinking, "Might the thinking of the Education Department change with a new administration?"

1 Comment

I signed up for it and then forgot! It was at a bad time because many of us teachers still were teaching and I don't think we were able to just tell our administrators that we were going to be attending to our computers for hour so let us go! I just wasn't able to sneak to my computer while the kids did "independent work". From what I'm hearing the sessions went on as they often do when a government body is involved, when asked a tough question they deferred to answer at a later time or when there is more information and stuck to prearranged questions and answers cleared by their supervisors ahead of time. A change in administration isn't going to change that, government does what it does and it's called bureaucracy! Obama has been pretty clear in his campaign what he favors high stakes testing though other measures considered too, more pre-K so that kids have a better opportunity to pass high stakes testings and greater accountability for schools with greater assistance. He also supports increasing the number of charter schools. How that will change depends on who he picks but have to remember he worked with Chicago schools extensively and didn't leave them better but the same. School reform has a lot more to do with what goes on in the area the school is in than it does what is going on in the school. The school will always mirror the neighborhood surrounding it. It really can't be helped. What would be nice is a better standard of living for many people. If they have a chance to do better their children will do better in school and they will be able to take care of themselves, not depend on the government.

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