April 7, 2016
Catholic Education News

Inside This Issue
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Happy Opening Week to all you baseball fans! My hometown Pittsburgh Pirates are off to a great start (3-0) after sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals. If recent history is any indicator, we're on pace for another heart-breaking loss in the one-game Wild Card! In the spirit of the season...
Leading off: ESSA update

Your intrepid author attended an informative ESSA training session yesterday that highlighted a lot of the areas principals and superintendents are most curious about in the new law. As you begin consultations for next year, remind yourself of the highlights and be prepared to go in fighting. 2016-17 is intended as the transition year - that means your LEA and you should practice some of the new aspects of the law, such as:
  • Asking for detailed information on how your proportionate share was determined (now required in ESSA);
  • If and how one-on-one tutoring, counseling, and mentoring will be included under Title I (new services covered in ESSA);
  • Working with the new ombudsman and who that will be.
Most importantly, if you have had a tough relationship with your LEA, this is a chance to start anew. Under ESSA, the goal of consultation is to reach consensus - not for the LEA to tell you what your students will receive. That means a stronger position for Catholic school administrators in consultation. Don't be afraid to use it!

Lastly, the Department of Education put out information telling us they do not intend to write many more regulations beyond the "supplement, not supplant" and assessments rules currently under negotiation. They will be releasing rules for state plans, which we will update you on when it is released.

Hitting a Single on School Lunch

Nine separate federal Departments recently finalized rules regarding faith-based organizations (FBO) and participation in federal programs. Considering the Administration's use of regulations against FBOs, they are surprisingly accommodating rules!

As part of the rules, USDA requires FBOs to offer recipients an alternative choice if they do not wish to work with an FBO. For the school lunch program this would have been unworkable - students would have had the option to demand lunch at the local public school. So, following comments by USCCB, USDA decided for the purposes of this requirement, the program should be treated as "indirect assistance." 

This does not change the school lunch program, but we have avoided a big potential headache!

A Home Run in Maryland

Our hats are off to the Maryland Catholic Conference for their work securing a program to fund scholarships for students from low-income families. The $5 million Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today (BOOST) program is a "tremendous step forward," as Mary Ellen Russell put it last week.

This follows a recent expansion in South Dakota of a scholarship tax credit and defense of an existing tax credit program in Montana by a state judge. As the bishops urged in 2005: "The entire Catholic community should be encouraged to advocate for parental school choice and personal and corporate tax credits, which will help parents to fulfill their responsibility in educating their children."

Congratulations to the Maryland and South Dakota Catholics for their hard work, and best of luck to all of you fighting for justice in education funding in your state.

Set Your Weekend Reading Lineup:


Have a blessed week,
Greg Dolan