The final webinar in the 2018–19 Consultation Series was focused on safeguards and strategies. I hope that those of you who joined me found the information helpful! If you missed the webinar, you can view it here. We are still planning two more webinars this spring on new ESSA guidance from the U.S. Department of Education—the first of which is scheduled for March 12 at 4 pm EST.

Although the final decision and the fiscal control is with the public school district for all ESSA programs providing equitable participation to private school students, there are many safeguards built into ESSA that help you as the private school official ensure equitable services for your students.

The first safeguard is that ESSA clearly states that the goal of consultation is to reach agreement. Hopefully, both parties are entering the consultation process in a collaborative and cooperative manner that lends itself to providing opportunity for each side to be heard, a discussion of viable options, and a transparent discussion of funding and the best way to meet student needs.

Each program now requires that the district obtain the signature from private school officials on a written affirmation that consultation was timely and meaningful and that all required topics were discussed and agreement was reached. It also—new under ESSA—requires that the affirmation form provide an opportunity for private school officials to indicate that consultation was not timely and meaningful or that agreement was not reached on the required topic(s). This form must be a part of consultation for each program requiring equitable participation: Title I, Title IIA (Professional Development), Title III (English learners and Immigrants), and Titles IVA (Academic Enrichment) and IVB (21st Century Community Learning Centers).

The new position of the ombudsman should provide a helpful resource when technical assistance is needed or when a thorny issue is preventing agreement. This assistance by the ombudsman can be more informal and collaborative if warranted by the situation. The state ombudsman also serves on the state monitoring team to be sure that equitable participation issues are monitored.

If these safeguards do not produce the needed result to provide equitable services, the private school official can file a complaint with the state. The complaint can request that the state take over the administration of the program and delivery of the services from the public school district, or it can ask the state to step in and resolve an issue of equitability. The state has 45 days to resolve the complaint. If it does not do so within 45 days or does not resolve the complaint to the satisfaction of the private school officials or the public school district, either party can appeal to the U.S. Secretary of Education. That appeal must be filed within 30 days of the state’s decision (or expiration of the 45-day window without a decision). The U.S. Department of Education then has 90 days to resolve the complaint.

Being aware of these safeguards can greatly assist you in the consultation process. The answer to the question, “Now what do I do?” can often be found in employing the next safeguard provided in ESSA.

Throughout these four webinars, we took a deeper dive into the process of consultation than simply listing the topics to be covered. We focused on fiscal issues, defining educational need in order to provide the services your students could most benefit from, and the safeguards available in the law to help you to stay relevant as you seek to ensure equitable services for your students.

To culminate this consultation project, I have prepared a new resource, Maximizing ESSA Implementation. It is available as a free download. Together with the ESSA Toolkit, which serves as an all-encompassing handbook to federal education program services and the Guidebook to ESSA Consultation, which provides a quick reminder and in-consultation resource, Maximizing ESSA Implementation can help you take your consultation skills to the next level to best meet your student needs and make the most out of federal education program funds.