This email continues the tips for making consultation the best it can be for your students. One of the most important issues regarding Title I that you can initially concentrate on is the count of low-income students. As you’re aware, low-income students who reside in Title I attendance areas generate fund for serving your educationally needy students under this program. Many times, most of us become complacent with the method of counting, sources of data, even the address matching for residence in Title I attendance areas by the school district.

Under ESSA, it is now clear that the funding for serving educationally-needy children who reside in Title I attendance areas comes from the total amount of Title I funds provided to the district, prior to the district taking any funds off the top for reservations and set asides. In many cases, this means less funds for the district’s Title I students and significantly more funds for your Title I students. As a result, many districts are looking at how they count private school students for the Title I program and may even be looking for a different method that could yield a lower count. It’s important that as the private school representative in consultation that you are prepared for this discussion. 

Additionally, many districts have moved to the Community Eligibility Program-a method of counting their free and reduced-price lunch students that can increase the number of students receiving lunches (a goal of this feeding program) but that also increases their Title I count. Since the amount of Title I funds does not change when a district switches to CEP, it can provide the public school with a greater proportion of funds because of the way they are counting their students.

Here are some safeguards from ESSA that can help you approach the issue of the count of low-income students.

  • While the district has the final say in all decisions, it cannot make any decisions that affect the equitable participation of private school students without timely and meaningful consultation.
  • Included in the consultation process is the amount of funds available and how that amount was determined, opening the door for a very frank and transparent conversation about how the low-income count of your students is determined.
  • There are five different approved methods for determining low-income count under Title I:
    • The same measure (usually free and reduced-price lunch)
    • A survey which may be extrapolated
    • Using an equated measure, such as tuition assistance application data
    • Using a correlated measure-for example, when TANF numbers are available for both public and private but free and reduced-price lunch numbers are only available for public school students, a ratio can be set up that estimates free and reduced-price lunch for private school students
    • Using proportionality-if the public school attendance area is 42% poverty, then 42% of the private school students residing in that attendance area are presumed low income.
  • If the district changes the method of counting low-income students that you believe results in an unfair depiction of poverty in your schools and is unwilling to consider any other method, you can contact your state ombudsman to help mediate the issue.
  • If the ombudsman is not helpful, you can submit a formal complaint to the state, which has 45 days to resolve the complaint. If the complaint is not resolved within the 45 days or not to your satisfaction, you can appeal it to the U.S. Secretary of Education, who has 90 days to resolve the complaint.
  • Also remember that the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Non-Public Education is there to provide advice and assistance to you. They can be reached at onpe@ed.gov.