This week the U.S. House of Representatives passed S. 1177, the Every Student Succeeds Act, and is calling on the Senate to take swift action on the legislation so that it can be signed into law before the end of the year. The White House praised the vote. The bill is poised for a quick vote in the Senate and signed by the president.
The sponsors describe it as bipartisan bill to fix No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The new measure rejects what they call “the overuse of standardized tests and one-size-fits-all mandates on our schools, ensures that our education system will prepare every child to graduate from high school ready for college and careers, and provides more children access to high-quality state preschool programs.” (Fact Sheet: Congress Acts to Fix No Child Left Behind)
Students and educators in non-public schools are cheering the victory as well. There are elements within the bill that improve equitable services to students and teachers in religious and independent schools a long-standing practice that had been eroded under NCLB. It reaffirms that federal education aid should be directed in an equitable way toward helping all children in need, regardless of the type of school they attend.
Different federal programs support local education in many ways. Title I is the biggest federal program that helps students with cognitive and physical disabilities. Title II-D offers continuing education resources to teachers. Title IV helps to create and maintain safe and drug free schools. Once funding streams are more equitable, other federal programs for which non-public school students are eligible will become accessible to them.
How ESSA Benefits Non-Public School Students
- Removes school district set-asides so a proportional share of all funds received by the local education agency must help the non-public school students in the community. This fixes the past practice of public entities setting aside up to 50% of the total funds for several different categories of funding (under-achieving, unsafe, or financially challenged public schools, or even preschool/kindergarten programs) thus limiting the proportionate share to private schools.
- Requires state education agencies to hire an ombudsman to monitor and enforce all federal program requirements and ensure equity for private school students and teachers.
- Strengthens the consultation requirements for public school agencies that provide federal proportional share services to non-public school students. After reaching an equitable and effective service plan for an individual student by both the public and private school stakeholders, the plan must be transmitted to the ombudsmen for review. This will allow the non-public school student’s advocates to play a greater role in developing the best plan for his/her education.
- Removes decades of red tape that has burdened the participation of non-public students and teachers in federal education programs. ESSA will protect non-public schools by strengthening the safeguards designed to ensure equity.