Many of you could probably write the book on the consultation process based on your experiences. For others, the process is new and perhaps a bit daunting. But for everyone, the consultation process is a real-time activity, changing and evolving depending on the persons participating, the program being discussed, the needs of the private school students, and the challenges the public school district may be facing.
Topics that must be discussed during consultation are the following. The topics are taken from the statute, but the bold topic descriptions are my own.
- STUDENT NEEDS: How the children’s needs will be identified;
- SERVICES: What services will be offered;
- WHO: How, where, and by whom the services will be provided;
- ASSESSMENT: How the services will be assessed and how the results of the assessment will be used to improve those services;
- FUNDS: The size and scope of the equitable services to be provided to the eligible private school children, teachers, another educational personnel, the proportion of funds allocated for those services and how the proportional amount of funding is determined;
- INPUT: How and when the agency will make decisions about the deliver of services to such children, including a thorough consideration and analysis of the views of the private school officials on the provision of services through a contract with potential third-party providers;
- THIRD PARTY: Whether the agency, consortium, or entity shall provide services directly or through a separate government agency, consortium, or entity, or through a third party contractor;
- POOLING: Whether to provide equitable services to eligible private school children by creating a pool or pools of funds with all of the funds allocated for the program’s purpose;
- WRITTEN EXPLANATION: How, if the agency disagrees with the views of the private school officials on the provision of services through a contract, the agency shall provide to the private school officials a writer explanation fate reasons why the LEA has chosen not to use a contractor.
Additional topics that only pertain to Title I are:
- POOLING: Whether to provide equitable services to eligible children by (1) creating a pool or pools of funds. . . based on the count of low-income families residing in participating attendance areas; or (2) for each individual school;
- LOW-INCOME DATA: The method or sources of data that are used to determine the number of children from low-income families in participating school attendance read who attend private schools;
- SCHEDULING: When, including the approximate time of day, services will be provide; and
- WRITTEN EXPLANATION: If an LEA disagrees with the view of the private school officials with respect to an issue described in (the provision of equitable services), the LEA shall provide in writing to such private school officials the reasons why the LEA disagrees.
One of the keys to success, whether you are experienced or just learning the process, is to utilize a consultation checklist to ensure that all of the required topics are covered during the consultation process. While all the required topics may not be covered in a single meeting, the sum total of program planning and design should cover all required topics. Tools #4 and #5 in ESSA Toolkit: A Guide for Equitable Services for Private School Students Fall 2021 contain checklists that you may find helpful.
Once these topics have been discussed—or there has been an attempt to discuss these topics—you should thoughtfully sign the written affirmation as requested by the public school district. For all programs providing equitable participation under ESSA, private school officials can indicate on the written affirmation whether or not agreement was reached on the specific consultation topics, if they were adequately discussed, and if the private school officials reached agreement with the public school district. These written affirmations are transmitted to the state’s ombudsman and can serve as an indication that the process is or is not leading to the required goal of reaching agreement.
The guidance from the U.S. Department of Education on reaching agreement bears review because it contains all of the elements that public and private school officials should strive for and the ground rules for good consultation practices. You can access the guidance at
https://www2.ed.gov/about/inits/ed/non-public-education/essa.html. See question A-10.
In addition to the ESSA Toolkit referenced above, there is an additional MDEC publication, ESSA Consultation: Guidebook to Effectiveness which comes as part of your purchase of the ESSA Toolkit. These publications can be purchased at www.equitableservicesmdec.com.