Accessing Federal Programs

The U. S. Department of Education has issued some guidance and regulations to assist with the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act. These documents should be available during the consultation process to assure all parties understand the law, regulations and guidance.

The Equitable Services provisions are detailed in a question and answer format on pages 23-41 of this document. These responses pertain to changes in the law and should be used in conjunction with previous guidance documents issued by the U.S. Department of Education.

General guidance documents have been produced for several of the ESSA programs, but no new specific guidance for any of the Title programs for non-public school students and teachers. The US Department of Education is working on updating the private school guidance documents to align with the new provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA). The Title specific guidance documents below are what public school districts are using.

Existing guidance for private school participation as developed for No Child Left Behind still apply if provisions have not been changed by ESSA. Most of the 2009 Title IX Equitable Services guidance still applies, but now refers to Title VIII.

Frequently Asked Questions Related to Nonpublic Schools. This document provides general guidelines pertaining to participation of private school students in federal programs.

Title Specific Guidance

Title I: Final Guidance Document: Access the guidance document pertaining to services for students and teachers in private schools.

Title I Tool Kit: Ensuring Equitable Services to Private School Children is available here. The purpose of the tool kit is to provide practitioners with models and other examples of how to effectively ensure equitable services to private school children, their teachers, and their families under the Title I program.

Title II, Part A: Improving Teacher Quality State Grants: Provides a connection to the section of the larger guidance document that addresses the equitable participation of private and religious school personnel in the professional development activities allowable under NCLB Title II, Part A.

Title III: Language Instruction for LEP and Immigrants Students: A guidance document is available online.

Title IV-A: Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants: A guidance document is available online.

Armed Forces Recruiters Access to Students and Student Recruiting Information: Private secondary schools are subject to the military recruiter requirements only if they receive funds under the ESEA. Private schools that do not themselves receive any ESEA funds, but whose students or teachers receive services under ESEA programs, are not considered to be recipients of funds and are not subject to the military recruiter requirements.  Sec. 8528 of ESSA has the specific legislative language pertaining to military recruiters.

Helpful Hints for Accessing Federal Education Programs

What do private school administrators need to know to access federal programs?

  • Learn how federal programs are developed—understand the legislative process and intent.
  • Be familiar with the provisions of the law and the regulations and guidance documents that guide their implementation; pay particular attention to the sections pertaining to the inclusion of private school students and teachers.
  • Find out which programs/services are available.
  • Determine whether the funding is a formula grant or a discretionary grant.
  • Formula grants that are awarded non-competitively to State Education Agencies (SEAs) and/or Local Education Agency (LEAs/school districts) by a formula set in the law; the law indicates how private schools students are to be included.
  • Discretionary grants are awarded competitively to LEAs or SEAs as described in the law. Criteria and eligible applicants are set in the law.
  • Know the amount of available funds and how they are to be distributed.
  • Know the procedures to assure your participation.
  • Know whom to contact if you have questions or problems.
  • The LEA is the fiscal agent who controls the funds—funds are not transferred to the private school; services are provided by and paid for by the LEA.
  • The final decision about program design rests with LEA.

What should private school administrators do to maximize participation in federal programs?

  • Be proactive! Initiate the contact with the LEA—don’t wait for them to contact you. Establish regular lines of communication with LEA.
  • Request inclusion in program planning and implementation.
  • Keep focused on meeting the needs of the children—the programs are to serve their needs not the convenience of the private school or LEA.
  • Be able to document the needs of the private school students and teachers.
  • Go to meetings prepared with data pertaining to program inclusion requirements.
  • Provide accurate enrollment and poverty data if this is used to generate funds.
  • Regularly monitor the type and quality of services being provided.
  • Document all of your requests and concerns about services or the consultation processes.
  • If concerns are not addressed satisfactorily by the LEA, contact the State Education Agency (SEA) and if the concerns are not resolved, contact the Office of Non-Public Education at the U.S. Department of Education (in that order).

What questions should administrators ask to maximize participation?

  • Who in the LEA/SEA is coordinating programs for Catholic school student participation?
  • When is the planning for the implementation of these programs to begin?
  • When is the deadline for submitting the final plan or application?
  • What services/programs are available?
  • What discretionary grant is the LEA considering applying for, and what discretionary grants have they received—and how will private schools students be included?
  • What are the rights of private school students and teachers?
  • Administrators have a right to request information about formula distributions; this is public information you are entitled to be given.
  • Program should meet needs of private school students and teachers—services should not be simply add-ons to the public school programs.
  • The quality of goods and services should be equitable with those provided to public schools.
  • Expenditure for programs for private school students and teachers should be equitable to those of public school students.
  • Administrators have the right to request a third-party provider for services.
  • The pooling of funds to provide services among schools is a way to increase the effectiveness of programs and is a legitimate issue to raise during the consultation process.

Consultation Processes: Timely and meaningful consultation during the design and development of the programs should occur on such issues as:

  • How the children's needs will be identified.
  • What services will be offered.
  • How and where the services will be provided.
  • How the services will be assessed and how the results of the assessment will be used to improve those services.
  • Service delivery mechanisms used to provide equitable services.
  • Who will provide the services.
  • The amount of funds available to serve private school students.
  • The size and scope of the services to be provided.
  • How and when the agency will make decisions about the delivery of services.
  • Consideration of the views of the private school officials re: use of third-party providers.
  • Such consultation shall occur before the local educational agency makes any decision that affects the opportunities of eligible private school children, teachers, and other educational personnel to participate.
  • Consultation [meetings] must continue throughout the implementation and assessment of services.

Timeline for Arranging for Participation in Federal Programs

Late fall of current year:

  • Set up consultation timeline for following school year

Early winter of current school year:

  • LEA mails intent to participate to all private schools
  • LEA receives poverty data (Title I) from the private school

Mid-winter of current school year:

  • LEA discusses available funds
  • LEA works with private school officials to design program

 Spring of current school year:

  • LEA conducts all necessary actions, including ordering materials
  • LEA informs participating schools of actions
  • Program is ready to begin next fall.
ESSA Section 8528
(Adobe PDF File)