‘Equitable Services’ Funding – A Potential Lifeline for Private Schools

Updated as June 25, 2020 upon a final ruling from US Department of Education

In response to comments on US Department of Education (DOE) guidance on how states and local education agencies (LEA) should determine equitable services for non-public schools under the CARES Act, DOE issued an interim final rule (IFR) on June 25, 2020. The IFR confirms the guidance, stating that LEAs should count all students in participating private schools that operate within a district, regardless of income, residency, or Title I status, for the purposes of determining each non-public school’s proportionate share of equitable services. However, the IFR also allows an LEA to choose to distribute CARES funds only to its Title I schools and students; if it makes this choice, it may then distribute equitable services only to qualifying non-public school students, using one of the following two methods:

  1. Calculate the funds for equitable services based on the total number of low-income students in Title I and participating private schools; or
  2. Calculate the funds using the LEA’s Title I, Part A share from the 2019-2020 school year.

There is a 30 day comment period on the IFR, but the rule has the force of law from the date it was issued.

Schools are closed nationwide, but some are closed for good. The economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic recently forced the storied Institute of Notre Dame, Maryland’s oldest Catholic girls school, to shutter its doors. Today the Archdiocese of Newark announced that it would close 10 of its schools due to financial hardship.

Many of these Catholic schools serve large numbers of low-income students. One of them, a member of the Cristo Rey Network, exclusively serves students of limited economic means. Countless other non-public schools across the nation are facing the same threat. And when they close, school districts will have to absorb displaced students at great expense.

Private school closures demonstrate why it is pivotal to enable students and teachers in non-public schools to receive “equitable services” under the CARES Act—through the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund and the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Education released guidance on how school districts can provide equitable services to students and teachers in non-public schools. If non-public school leaders intend to use the funds authorized by the CARES Act, a clear understanding of what equitable services are and how to ask for them cannot be overstated.

ExcelinEd’s newest policy brief, The CARES Act: Equitable Services Funding Guidance for Private Schools, explores what qualifies as “equitable services” under the CARES Act. The brief also outlines the details of the updated guidance, explains how non-public school officials can consult with school districts to receive equitable services, and provides specific recommendations for non-public school leaders.

About the Author

Tim Abram is the Associate Policy Director of Educational Opportunity for ExcelinEd.

Solution Areas:

Private Education Choice, Public Education Choice