I hope this finds each and every one of you safe and healthy. I am sure you are in the midst of planning for the 2020-21 school year, including the equitable participation of private school students in federal education programs.
The CARES program funds emergency relief for public and private school students in both academics and safety during the pandemic. But, like so many things these days, equitable services was not without controversy. Previously, I send you information and tools based on the Non-Regulatory Guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Education on April 30, 2020. Since that time, there have been objections and challenges to the manner in which the U.S. Department of Education (ED) directed local educational agencies (LEAs) to calculate the proportional share of funds for students attending private schools. As a result, ED issued an Interim Final Rule (the Rule) that takes effect immediately while being open for comment through the end of July. As of this writing, what I am providing you is the information being enforced in the Rule, but after reviewing comments, ED reserves the right to make additional changes.
With that in mind, here is the CARES Act as it stands.
If the LEA plans to serve public school students in all of the LEA’s schools, then the determination of the proportional share of funds is the comparison of the number of students attending private elementary and secondary schools located in the LEA to all public and private school students attending elementary and secondary schools in the district.
If the LEA plans to serve only its students in Title I public schools, then it may choose from two options for counting students for the purpose of determining the proportional share to provide equitable services.
Option 1 is to use the 2019-20 Title I count and determine the proportional share from that data.
Option 2 is to count the number of low-income children attending private schools located in the LEA compared to the total number of low-income children who attend public schools in the LEA and who attend private schools located in the LEA.
Equitable services are required under ESSER and GEER programs. These services may be requested by any private school of the LEA in which it is located. This is true even if the LEA limits its services to only its Title I schools and uses one of the two options for calculating funds in that situation.
Services to private school students attending school located in the LEA must be secular, neutral, and nonideological.
There are 12 categories for expenditures of funds under ESSER. All of these options must be open to provide equitable services, even if the LEA limits its use of funds to only some of those 12 authorized uses. These categories range from direct services to professional development to technology to health and safety under COVID. Funds authorized by ESSER can be spent on any uses for ESSA programs (such as Title I, Title IIA professional development, Title III for English learners, and Title IVA for a well-rounded education), plus any of the uses under IDEA.
Timely and meaningful consultation is required before the LEA makes any decisions that affect the equitable participation of private school students. Topics required during consultation are those you are familiar with from other programs, including the needs of your students, how those needs can be met, the funding available and how it was determined, the use of third party, and reaching agreement. A written affirmation is required and the complaint process is applied to CARES programs if equitable services are not being received or the LEA did not engage in timely and meaningful consultation.
Non-regulatory guidance issued April 30, 2020 by ED: https://oese.ed.gov/files/2020/06/Providing-Equitable-Services-under-the-CARES-Act-Programs-Update-6-25-2020.pdf
Interim Final Rule: https://oese.ed.gov/files/2020/06/Equitable-Services-Final-Interim-Rule.pdf
MDEC resources: www.equitableservicesmdec.com/publications
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Best wishes to all for a safe and successful start to the school year!
All the best,
Michelle L. Doyle
Michelle Doyle Educational Consulting