Private schools are eligible for equitable services through two emergency funding programs. Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER) establishes $3 billion for governors to provide emergency support to schools most impacted by coronavirus. Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) adds $13.5 billion in grants to states for K-12 schools to use in the twelve ways described here in the legislation. However, the details as to the provision of those equitable services needed to be filled in by the US Department of Education (USDE). We have finally received that information.
On April 30, 2020, USDE released the highly anticipated guidance. It is, in a word, outstanding, and private schools should communicate their thanks to the Administration. The crucial points from the guidance:
- LEAs are required to reserve funds for equitable services based on the number of students in private schools that choose to participate. LEAs will determine the overall number of children who are enrolled in public schools and in participating non-public schools, and reserve the proportionate share based on those enrollment numbers. Equitable services will NOT be based on a Title I allocation. The only time that Title I comes into play is in allocating funds from the federal government to the states, and from the states to LEAs.
- An LEA must offer to provide equitable services under these two programs to students and teachers in all non-public schools located in the LEA, even if a non-public school has not previously participated under Title I, Part A or Title VIII of the ESEA.
- All students and teachers in a non-public school are eligible to receive equitable services under the CARES Act programs.
- A non-public school whose students and teachers receive equitable services under the CARES Act programs is not a “recipient of Federal financial assistance.”
- Private schools are not limited to the same uses of funds chosen by LEAs for their own schools.
- Nonpublic schools can pool funds.
- Since the CARES Act is not a Title I program, private schools do not need to tie requests to specific student needs, but instead can use the funds for general school needs.