The U.S. Department of Education released draft guidance for ESEA Title VIII Equitable Services on March 29, 2022. The guidance is open to comment and suggestions through April 29, 2022. This guidance governs all programs that require the equitable participation of private school students with the exception of Title IA, which has its own equitable service content. The programs that provide equitable participation under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) are: Title IC Migrant Education; Title IIA Supporting Effective Instruction; Title IIIA English Language Acquisition, Language Enhancement, and Academic Achievement Act; Title IVA Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants; Title IVB Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21stCCLC); and Title IVF subpart 3 National Activities for School Safety Project School Emergency Response to Violence (Project SERV).
Here are a few of my general observations:
A. Much of the guidance contained in this document was contained in other guidance documents. The advantage is that it is collected in one location for easier access and to create a more complete picture of equitable services than can be achieved by having bits and pieces of guidance in different locations.
B. The guidance that is repeated from other sources serves as an excellent reminder of the language provided by the U.S. Department of Education that supports equitable services and can be used in the course of consultation to help ensure a level playing field.
C. The guidance goes beyond the “big 4” (in which I include Title IA) and therefore should remind all of us not to ignore the programs that are not the largest but still provide value to eligible students attending private schools.
D. Many of the new Q&As address smaller issues that nevertheless often trip up the consultation process and delay or deny services that should be allowable.
E. Some topics bear comment by the private school community.
While I am providing some analysis below, I recommend reading the draft guidance, which can found at https://oese.ed.gov/files/2022/03/Draft-Title-VIII-Equitable-Services-Guidance.pdf, learning from it, and commenting on it as appropriate. Comments can be sent to [email protected] by April 29, 2022.
A few thoughts—
- Section A in its entirety contains excellent reminders about what constitutes best practice for the consultation process.
- Section B on allocations and expenditures explains the allocation and expenditure of funds, especially the questions on obligation which are B-9 through B-13. B-13 indicates that a reasonable deadline by which private school officials must participate in the federal education program services would be September 1, since the money must be obligated by September 30. This will be a help to those private schools that are currently told the funds must be spent during the current school year without summer availability of funds.
- Pooling within and between LEAs was covered in the October 2019 Title I guidance, but while we assumed it could be applied to the remainder of the programs requiring equitable participation, this guidance is the first time that piece appears in a guidance document. See questions B-4 through B-7.
- Pre-school is covered in this draft guidance. See questions B-3 and C-2. In general, pre-school students are not counted for generating funds unless the state defines an elementary school as including pre-school, but pre-school students (and their teachers) could receive services through the equitable services funds.
- There are many clarifications made for Title IIA services, including the use of Title IIA funds for out-of-state professional development; reimbursement to teachers for hotel, travel, and meal expenses; payment of stipends (in certain circumstances); the prohibition of a blanket rule without due consideration to all allowable options for use of funds; and the use of contractors.
- Discretionary programs, such as 21stCCLC and Project SERV, require consultation with private school officials before the LEA or other entity applies for the discretionary grant. While this is not as explicit as it could be in the guidance, the guidance applies to the programs listed above in the introduction and should be followed accordingly. Additionally, there is reference made to state-level expenditures for Titles IIA and IVA and the requirement for timely and meaningful consultation. See questions H-4 and J-2.
I hope that by listing a few of the pieces that I found to be very helpful in this draft guidance I have whet your appetite so that you’ll want to read the draft guidance yourself. And remember—comments are open until April 29 at [email protected]