Under new federal education law, more public dollars may be bound for private schools

school-lunch-by-usdagov-with-flickr-creative-commons-licenseAt Policy Watch, we’ve reported extensively on the new responsibilities entrusted to state education leaders under last year’s Every Student Succeeds Act, the federal update to the long-unpopular No Child Left Behind law.

But there’s one major component of the massive and complicated federal education law that hasn’t earned much attention, according to Education Week.

The paper wrote today that, under ESSA, more public dollars may soon be funneled toward private schools.

Education Week explains:

Here’s what we mean: As with the No Child Left Behind Act, ESSA requires that districts provide “equitable services” to certain students in private schools, after consulting with private school officials. This can impact migrant students in private schools, students who are English-language learners, and others. (The delivery of equitable services has been complicated by the growth of school choice programs, according to a recent report from the federal Government Accountability Office.)

A summary of ESSA spending and fiscal rules provided by the Council of Chief State School Officers states that under equitable services requirements, “Expenditures for eligible private school children must be equal, taking into account their number and educational needs, to the expenditures for participating public school children.”

In the simplest terms, private schools’ share of Title I education funding, which is designated for low-income children, is growing under new federal education mandates.

It’s a controversial notion given that private school critics argue the schools face more lax accountability measures than their public school peers. Such facilities have also been accused multiple times of maintaining discriminatory admissions policies toward the LGBTQ community.

Education Week goes on:

The first bulleted item we mentioned above could pretty directly lead to a greater share of public dollars for private schools, said Sheara Krvaric, an attorney with the Federal Education Group, which consults with states and districts on K-12 finance.

But the ability for private schools to appeal for more funds to new state-level ombudsmen could create a new political dynamic around federal money available for equitable services at private schools. And the changes appear to “put more teeth into the provision of equitable services,” Krvaric said.

“Lots of private schools were complaining about this,” Krvaric said of the setup under NCLB.

A newsletter from the Council for American Private Education does indicate that the first change we noted, at least, favors private schools.

It’s worth staying tuned to this issue.

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