Category Government Programs
Title What's an Ombudsman?
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What's an Ombudsman?


On December 10, 2015, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which reauthorized and updated the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). 

One of the provisions of the new law required each state to appoint an ombudsman. This person is to monitor and enforce the requirements imposed on public school districts to ensure equitable services to private school teachers and students. 

Equitable Services means that the district is to provide an equal amount of services to private school students and teachers as they do their own teachers and students. There are a number of Title programs and services that private schools are eligible to participate in. 

The funds for the equitable services is provided to each school district, and the district then allocates the portion of the funds that will be used to provide services to the private schools. This does not make the private school a direct recipient of any federal funding. These are services provided to teachers and students and not funds provided to the school. 

The creation of the ombudsman is the single most important innovation introduced by ESSA for private schools. The ombudsman is to work with each school district and private schools to ensure that equitable services are being provided. That person is to make sure that states tell the private school officials "in a timely manner" the amount of funds that a district determines are available for services and benefits to private school teachers and students. The ombudsman is also to answer questions and resolve areas of disagreement regarding the implementation of ESSA. The districts are then required to spend the funds allocated for the benefit of private school children in the fiscal year for which the funds are received. 

The ombudsman is also to ensure cooperation between public school officials and private school officials in working out the delivery of equitable services through consultation. In consultation, the private school and public school district work out an agreement on how those services needed will be delivered to the students and teachers of the private schools. 

So the ombudsman position is a significant improvement in the law. States are to have appointed the ombudsman by the beginning of the 2017-18 school year. Private school leaders should know who their person is serving in this new role and get to know that person. Even if your school does not accept the services provided by the public school district, you should at least attend the consultations and understand what is available for your students and teachers. 

It is the position of ACSI that schools may continue to accept these services as long as there continues to be no strings attached as to admissions, employment, or operations of the Christian school. The federal government under ESSA does not have any requirements that would impinge on the autonomy of the Christian school and how it operates as a private school. 

A positive result

In Colorado, the ombudsman was appointed early in 2016 after the law was passed. Immediately, she reached out to private school leaders and began a series of meetings that resulted in a "Private School Working Group" that now meets quarterly with the ombudsman and others in the Colorado Department of Education to give a voice to the department for private education. This has resulted in private schools and public school officials having a better understanding of ESSA and how to best work together to provide the services needed for students and teachers. The ombudsman also had done webinars and meetings for all private school leaders. 

Resources

The US Department of Education's Office of Non-Public Education has now posted an Ombudsman Directory listing the person in each state. You can find that list at https://innovation.ed.gov/what-we-do/non-public-education/essa/ombudsman-directory. ACSI would encourage you to reach out to your Ombudsman. 

The Council for American Private Education (CAPE) also has an excellent resource entitled, "Private Schools and the Every Student Succeeds Act." It can be found at http://capenet.org/pdf/ESSACAPE.pdf. This resource outlines each Title program that your students and teachers are eligible to participate in. 

The Department of Education also has a website of ESSA Resources. It can be found at https://www.ed.gov/esea. This site includes guidance, webinar recordings and much more. 

LLU 28.1


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.

Association of Christian Schools International
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Phone: 719.528.6906
ACSI.org

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