L-R: Melissa Swearingen (USCCB), Dale MacDonald (NCEA), Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN), Tom Burnford (NCEA), and Greg Dolan.
"Now What?" on ESSA
Last we spoke, the much anticipated reauthorization of ESEA, the
Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), had just been signed into law. Soon after, the Department of Education (ED) put out a
request for comment
on where to begin with ESSA. The USCCB took part in that process by
posting comments to the Federal Register.
This week, we learned ED will hold a
to discuss regulations for assessments and "supplement not supplant." The negotiators will be announced in three weeks and will meet in March and April.
At the end of January, ED announced ESSA's changes for formula grants will not be fully implemented until the 2017-18 school year. Unfortunately, this means our equitable services provisions
will be delayed
Under ESSA, the goal of consultation is "agreement on how to provide equitable and effective programs for eligible private school children." The process has been strengthened and new topics include "how the proportion of funds for services to private school children should be determined and whether services should be provided directly by the district or through a third-party." Additionally, ESSA expands the scope of consultation (
see page 7)
and requires it to cover more programs, not just Title I.
Importantly, ESSA requires that Catholic school officials and the LEA sign a document agreeing that "timely and meaningful" consultation occurred. This empowers you in the consultation and offers an avenue of recourse if your students are treated unfairly. Which is where the Ombudsman comes in...
One part of ESSA that Catholic schools can begin planning for today is the new role of Ombudsman
(pgs. 71, 72, 308)
This position, appointed at the state level, is intended to ensure equitable treatment of private school students, especially in the consultation process. Any agreement reached through consultation must be sent to the Ombudsman.
Because the law is not very detailed about the Ombudsman, it is important to influence how this role is selected, who is assigned the duties, and what they make of the position.
Each state will have a unique situation, so there is no one "right way" to approach this process. It is important, however, we ensure the Ombudsman is a fair observer between the state government and Catholic schools. One tip is to suggest to the state government a short list of candidates amenable to your diocese/state conference - keeping in mind the role may be taken on by an existing state official (more likely) or a new hire (less likely).
ESSA also adjusts the funding formula for Title II grants and expands the eligible uses of funds (though it is unclear if all uses are accessible to private school teachers). Beginning in the 2018-19 school year the Title II formula will gradually favor states with more children from low-income families. For our schools focused in areas of higher poverty, this should give teachers a larger pot of funds to draw from.
Please feel free to reach out to me as you grapple with the new law and prepare for consultation with your local district. My direct line is 202-541-3148.
Lastly, I had the pleasure of meeting many CE News subscribers at the Alliance for Catholic Education/USCCB seminar at Notre Dame. It was wonderful to get to know so many of the brilliant people in our Catholic school community!