Philadelphia school officials say private donors reneged on nearly $405,000 in pledges toward a severance package for the superintendent, leaving the district on the hook for the entire $905,000 buyout.
The money was paid Wednesday, about two weeks after Arlene Ackerman's tenure ended. Her leadership saw increased test scores and graduation rates but also clashes with community members, the teachers' union and elected officials.
The district said in a statement that the private money was withdrawn because of public concern over the donors' anonymity.
Ethics and education experts had criticized the unusual public-private buyout. They said the lack of transparency created questions about whether the donors expected the favor to be returned.
Officials said they were trying to minimize taxpayer liability.
The state auditor general is investigating Ackerman's severance arrangement.