Category Government Programs
Title Christian Schools Need Not Forgo Their Title Funds
Author/s Patrick Haggarty, Ed.D.
Preview Christian Schools Need Not Forgo Their Title Funds
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Christian Schools Need Not Forgo Their Title Funds

by Patrick Haggarty, Ed.D., President of FACTS Education Solutions  

The most recent National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) publication on private schools is fascinating.  Some of the data looks like this:

  • There are 23,115 private, faith-based schools educating 4.9 million students. 
  • The average private school enrollment is 142 students.
  • More than 30 million K-12 students (public and private) qualify for a free and/or reduced lunch.

By themselves, these stats can be trivial or possibly discussion points at a strategic planning meeting for a school board committee.  However, when we add ESSA funds to the conversation, the information is not only intriguing, it is extremely significant, especially for private, faith-based schools.   

Using known averages and the IES stats, it would be reasonable to estimate that every private, faith-based school should have approximately $5,000 to supplement their professional development budget - at no cost to the school.  It would also be reasonable to estimate the average private, faith-based school that enrolls children from low-income families should have $5,000 to supplement instruction for students who are struggling academically- at no cost to the school.  In a nutshell: private, faith-based schools should have thousands of dollars at their disposal to support students and teachers - at no cost to their general operating budgets.   

Here's how it works.   

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) distributes more than $13 billion of the American peoples' money to support K-12 teachers and students.  These funds are allocated on an impartial basis to all K-12 schools, including private, faith-based schools.  Most people recognize this as Title I and Title II dollars.  However, most are not aware that private schools may participate in these Title programs.  Make no mistake; private schools do not collect a check from the government but instead, they are entitled to receive the services purchased by these dollars.  The Title I funds are used to provide academic support to students who need additional assistance in Reading, Math, and Science; the Title II funds are used to provide educators with professional development.   

So what is the current status of private school participation in Title programs and services? The best guess is that about half of the nation's private schools take advantage of these services.  Remarkably, this indicates that many private and faith-based schools are leaving thousands of dollars on the table, each year. 

Unfortunately, some are actually refusing to take advantage of these funds, believing that if they accept Title services, somehow the federal government will be allowed to dictate what happens in their schools.  

This is simply not true.   

Annually, the US Department of Education distributes Title funds to every state.  In turn, the state works with local public school districts/local education agencies (LEA) to ensure the funds are spent on professional development for ALL teachers and student academic support services for qualifying children, including those at private and faith-based schools.  To be clear: private schools do not receive any money.  Instead, they may accept the services (professional development or supplementary instruction) from the LEA or a third party.  

Before ESSA, private, faith-based schools had a limited say regarding how these funds were used in their schools.  Today, they have a considerable influence with how, when, and by whom the private, faith-based schools receive the Title services.  One of the key benefits of ESSA is the degree of guidance private school leaders have over the Title services at their schools.  ESSA requires LEA officials to meet with private school leaders to discuss the educational needs of the private school children, and the professional needs of the private school teachers, before any services are provided.  This is what ESSA calls "timely and meaningful consultation".  During these face-to-face meetings (which should occur several times each year) there is to be "a genuine opportunity for all parties to express their view and have those views considered".  The agenda should include: 

  • How will the LEA identify the private school students' needs?
  • What services will the LEA offer?
  • How, where, when, and by whom will the services be provided?
  • How will the services be assessed and improved?
  • What will be the size and scope of the services provide to private schools?
  • What will be the method to determine the number of low-income children in the private school?
  • Will a third-party provider be used to provide services to the private school?
  • What will be the process used in case there is disagreement?
  • May the private school pool its funds with other schools?

After consultation, leaders on both sides are to reach an agreement on how best to serve the private school children and employees.   

To start this process, LEAs are required to communicate with private schools in their region.  Usually, this includes a January letter explaining Title services and an Intent to Participate Form.  In many cases, the LEA is not aware of all of the private schools in its boundaries and it may miss a school or two.  To avoid missing the chance to participate, it would be prudent for every private school leader to contact their LEA - today - and update their contact information.  It would also help if they would share the contact information of other private schools in the neighborhood so that all schools have access to the funds that are rightfully theirs.   

With all of the financial challenges facing private, faith-based schools, using Title funds to supplement professional development budgets and student academic programs is one of the easiest, most accessible avenues of additional funding support currently available.  Remember:  ESSA Title funds are intended to support all K-12 students and teachers, including private, faith-based schools.  

Prior to becoming the President of FACTS Education Solutions, Dr. Haggarty was a high school principal, a K-12 school system president and superintendent of the Catholic Dioceses of Montana, followed by superintendent of the Archdiocese of Seattle, where he provided guidance to 74 schools and represented 22,000 students throughout Western Washington. For questions please feel free to contact Dr. Haggarty at DrHaggarty@factsmgt.com  

LLU 29.1

Notice: This article is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It has been provided to member schools with the understanding that ACSI is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, tax, or other professional services. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. Laws vary by jurisdiction, and the specific application of laws to particular facts requires the advice of an attorney.

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