Many thanks to the Program for Inclusive Education's colleagues and their special contributions to this piece.
Can you feel the energy and positivity?
It’s the excitement surrounding the future conversations between Catholic schools and their Local Education Agencies (LEA—the acronym used consistently to refer to local school districts) regarding allocations of Title funds. Given the changes under the new provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), Catholic schools can improve equitable services for students. These changes have the opportunity to provide a lot of hope for our students!
For Catholic schools, Title I and II-A funds are both positively impacted by the Every Student Succeeds Act and should allow more dollars to be spent for direct services to students and professional development for educators. At the outset, know that every state is at a different point in planning for this new legislation. The purpose of this article is to empower Catholic school leaders to meaningfully and proactively engage their local public schools. That way we can avoid surprises when decisions are made at the state level, which will eventually come to impact the local level and our students.
Tip #1: Connect with your LEA now
There is a necessary combination of kindness and respect paired with persistence required as Catholic school leaders begin to have conversations with their LEAs. If you haven’t already done so, begin the conversation with your LEA about these changes through “timely and meaningful consultation.” Consultation between the private school officials and LEAs are required by legislation. You can inquire about your 2017-18 projected allocations for professional development and the formula used to determine this amount. While you may not be able to confirm or receive the amount until the spring (depending on the state), it is the perfect time to establish a proactive relationship. As of July 1, 2017, the changes for formula programs under ESSA (Title I-A funding for fair, equitable-high quality education to all students, Title II-A for preparing and training educators and school leaders, Title III for English Language Learners, and Title IV for student support and academic enrichment programs) should go into effect. Go to the consultation meeting knowing that the proportional share for PD for Catholic schools is drawn from the entire Title II-A budget. Under NCLB, the proportion for Catholic schools was dependent on the amount the LEA allotted for professional development. Not anymore! Be thoughtful and intentional and begin the conversation now so the use of these funds can be proactively planned.
Tip #2: Understand how ESSA provisions positively impact Catholic schools
Consultation, or the decision-making process between the LEA and Catholic schools, is required to reach agreement on what programs are equitable and effective for students and teachers. This is beyond the prior expectation that consultation simply took place; thus, this provides an opportunity for Catholic schools leaders to increase their funding. The needs of the Catholic school must be taken into account. If they are different than those of the LEA, a separate program should be developed in consultation with private school representatives. If needed, ask for documentation of any disagreements.
LEAs are responsible for explaining to Catholic schools how the proportionate share was determined. If you question your allocation, ask exactly how it was calculated to ensure it reflects the entire enrollment of students within private schools (K-12). In order for states and districts to obtain their funds under Title II-A, they must provide equitable services to eligible teachers and administrators in private schools. The Council for American Private Education has more information in this document.
You have a voice in crafting the role of the Ombudsman who exists to “monitor and enforce” the equitable services provisions. Visit the Ombudsman Toolkit provided by the USSCB to advocate for a representative, given that the state educational agency designates this position.
Tip #3: Know the definition of Professional Development
Professional development takes on many meanings. Overall, it is meant to provide educators (teachers, principals, and other school leaders) with knowledge and skills to enable students to succeed in a well-rounded education while meeting challenging state academic standards. The idea is that these experiences are not stand-alone, one-stop workshops. Rather, they are intensive, collaborative, data-driven, classroom-focused and sustained over a period of time. Moreover, educators should be able to personalize their professional development plans specific to their own needs as identified in observation or other feedback. There is also specific language around partnerships with institutions of higher education to provide educators the opportunity to work under the guidance of experienced practitioners in the field and the faculty of such institutions.
Tip #4: Divide and conquer the work
If possible, team up with other Catholic schools in the area or nominate an advocate to represent all of your schools. Having one conversation between the LEA and an advocate who represents many students and families from all schools could simplify the process. Catholic school leaders wear so many hats. One or two passionate leaders could wear the Title fund hat and streamline the conversation for all involved.
There is much opportunity for Catholic schools with the access of Title funds. Please know how it impacts you and the special populations you serve. For additional understanding, please watch this short video on changes that impact Title I and II from Dr. Jim Frabutt, an ACE Professor.
Want to learn more about how you can help serve all of your students? Apply to become an Inclusive Educator with the Program for Inclusive Education. Visit ace.nd.edu/inclusion for more details.