June 16, 2016
Catholic Education News

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Title IX Guidance and Catholic Schools

On May 13, the federal Department of Education released a  Dear Colleague Letter addressed to all recipients of federal educational assistance that advised on how the Department would enforce Title IX - the part of the law addressing discrimination on the basis of sex.

The USCCB released a statement, co-authored by Archbishop Lucas, Chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education, calling the letter "deeply disturbing" and pointing out how the new guidance "contradicts a basic understanding of human formation."

It is important to remember that religious schools are exempt from the provisions of Title IX, as clearly stated in the law and regulations. 

Furthermore, Catholic schools are not "recipients of federal financial assistance." For example, our students and teachers may benefit from federal programs such as Title I and Title II of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, but that does not make the  school   a recipient of federal dollars. 

Likewise, the E-Rate program, administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company, does not make a school a federal recipient either. And the National School Lunch Program, depending on how it is administered, does not necessarily make the school a recipient, though it may be worth reviewing your program's structure.

In this confusing cultural and legal environment, it is vital Catholic school officials know as much as possible about the programs available to their students and teachers. If this office can be of assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me by email (gdolan@usccb.org) or phone (202-541-3148).
 
Assurances and Consultations

 The Department of Education released a " notice of proposed rulemaking" (fancy term for "first draft") for accountability rules and state plans under ESSA. Frustratingly, ED's regulations completely leave out private school representatives in the creation of state plans and requires no assurances on behalf of the SEA that equitable services were provided. That is a glaring oversight that goes against the plain text of the law.

The USCCB will be commenting on the rule and offering constructive changes (likely to §299.13(c) and §299.15(a) found on pages 172 and 177 here). 

As soon as those comments are prepared, they will be forwarded around. Your participation in the comment period will be much appreciated! Comments are due by August 1 -look for USCCB's comments well before then.
 
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Greg Dolan