NEW CARES Act Guidance Providing Equitable Services to Students and Teachers in Non-Public Schools

On October 9, the U.S. Department of Education released Providing Equitable Services to Students and Teachers in Non-Public Schools under CARES Act Programs. This document revises former guidance issued previously that was vacated by three federal court decisions.

This new guidance applies to the Governor's Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER) and the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) of the CARES Act. It conforms with the requirement to calculate the proportional share of funding for private schools “in the same manner as provided under section 1117" Every Student Succeeds Act.

Important takeaways:

The LEA (public school district) in which the private school is located is responsible for carrying out the equitable services provisions for all schools in that district.

All consultation is to be with the one district and must follow the required consultation topics.

Data used to calculate the proportional share may be that which was used for the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 calculations.

The services that are allowable under the bill may be found here.

If there is disagreement between the private school officials and the LEA representatives, the ombudsman should be contacted.

Any prior consultations and calculations and delivery of services made in good faith under prior guidance when it was in effect (before September 4, 2020) may be honored.

Private school officials responsible for engaging with the LEA in the consultation process should download the document and bring it to all the consultation meetings.

Carry-Over Funds for ESSA Programs

Many schools were not able to expend all of the funds allotted for the various Title programs due to the school closures. While ESSA now requires that funds be used in the year in which they were allocated, there are circumstances in which they may be carried over into the next year. Section N-7 of the U.S. Department of Education guidance is available online. Schools are entitled to the unexpended funds from the prior year and should be discussed in the consultation process for the current year – apart from the CARES Act special funding.

There is now more flexibility in use of the ESSA funds due to waivers under the COVID crisis. Title IV has no limit on funding use for technology so schools might consider requesting that these funds be allocated to acquire devices to provide students with tools they need if they do not have home access to engage in virtual learning. Title II-A funds might also be used to provide teachers with additional training and materials to ensure more effective digital instruction. Think ahead—not just about reopening school but about what might be needed if the country experiences another shutdown during the next year.