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UPDATE: Found Money for Collingswood School District?

The school board approved a resolution to join a settlement seeking a refund of 18-year-old tuition overcharges. It will also apply for nearly a half-million dollars from the IDEA Act.

Collingswood Public Schools could pick up an extra half-million dollars in the coming year through a state IDEA grant and the settlement of a dispute with the Archway School.

The Board of Education announced Monday night that the district would apply for some $450,000 under a grant from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA). The district was notified by the state Department of Education of its revised eligibility for the funds.**

The Board also approved a resolution to accept a cash settlement in the amount of $22,356.42 from Archway Programs to end an outstanding case of overcharged tuition from the 1990s.

An audit by the New Jersey Department of Education in the late 1990s found that Archway had overcharged tuition to 86 different school districts in South Jersey, including Collingswood.

According to a 1998 Philadelphia Inquirer article, the school districts had paid more than $25,000 per student to Archway for tuition, while the state audit found that the total should have been around $19,000.

Archway denied the findings of the audit, which found that the overcharges totaled approximately $2.5 million. Its proposal would refund 37 percent of the disputed amount to the school districts in the complaint.

The settlement is still far from official. According to the resolution, all 86 school districts involved must agree to the settlement to allow everything to move forward. Each district will receive the same offer—37 percent of their disputed amounts—according to the settlement.

**CLARIFICATION** - Beth Ann Coleman, business administrator for the school board notified Patch of a clarification regarding the IDEA grant.

The monies are part of an annual allocation for which the district had previously budgeted; the reason the matter came up for resolution before the Board two months running, Coleman said, is because there was a downward revision in the allocation of some $1,200 in the originally allotted figures.

Coleman also offered a comment on the Archway settlement, saying that in speaking with other school district administrators at a professional association meeting, "it seems like a majority of [districts] are going to take [the settlement]."

Among the reasons cited is the fear that Archway could go bankrupt were it forced to pay the full amount sought in the suit to all the affected parties. Since the districts still use its services in support of special-needs children, to push the company to the brink would be counter-intuitive.

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