Non-Public Education FAQ
ONPE offers this guidance to provide states and local education agencies (LEAs), private school officials and the private school community with information to assist them in understanding the scope of federal education services and benefits available to private school students, teachers and, in some programs, parents under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
This guidance also provides responses to frequently asked questions concerning private schools and federal education programs.
This guidance represents the Department’s current thinking on these topics. It does not create or confer any rights for or on any person. This guidance does not impose any requirements beyond those set forth under applicable laws and regulations.
If you are interested in commenting on this guidance, please e-mail us your comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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- Does the U.S. Department of Education offer scholarships or other forms of financial assistance to pay tuition for students to attend private elementary or secondary schools?
- Does the U.S. Department of Education provide funds for building, starting, or operating private elementary and secondary schools?
- Does the U.S. Department of Education provide services and benefits to private elementary and secondary school students and teachers and, if so, how do students and teachers get access to them?
- Which programs provide services to private elementary and secondary school teachers and students under ESEA?
- How are services provided to private elementary and secondary school students with disabilities under IDEA?
- How do I access U.S. Department of Education programs that serve students and teachers in private elementary and secondary schools?
- Are there any U.S. Department of Education grants that a private elementary and secondary school may apply for directly?
- May a private elementary or secondary school become a provider of Supplemental Educational Services (SES), and be paid for providing SES?
- Are private elementary and secondary schools whose students or teachers receive equitable services under ESEA or IDEA considered to be “recipients of federal financial assistance”?
- Are private secondary schools subject to the military recruiter requirements?
- May children who are schooled at home receive services from federal education programs underESEA and IDEA?
- I am interested in starting a private elementary or secondary school. Must I contact the U.S. Department of Education?
- Does the U.S. Department of Education have a list of private elementary and secondary schools?
- Does the U.S. Department of Education accredit private elementary or secondary schools? Does it recognize accrediting bodies for such accreditation?
In general, the federal government does not provide scholarships or other forms of financial assistance that directly pay the tuition for a student to attend a private elementary or secondary school. However, the U.S. Department of Education has one program, the D.C. School Choice Incentive Program, that awards funds to a private entity to provide scholarships for private school tuition, fees and transportation expenses for students who meet certain eligibility criteria. Through this program, students from low-income families residing in the District of Columbia may receive such scholarships to attend private elementary or secondary schools in Washington, D.C. To learn more about the D.C. School Choice Incentive Program, visit the Department of Education’s web site at: http://www.ed.gov/programs/dcchoice/index.html.
Usually, the best place to start looking for information about scholarships or other financial aid is the school or schools that your child attends or is considering attending. Ask school officials if they offer financial assistance and if they have recommendations for other potential sources of aid. You may also want to search the internet for organizations that provide information about financing private education.
In general, the U.S. Department of Education does not have programs that provide funds for building, starting, or operating private elementary and secondary schools.
An exception to this was the School Renovation Program, which provided federal assistance to high-poverty public and private schools located within a local education agency (LEA) that received a school renovation grant. Eligible schools could receive certain types of renovations, primarily modifications that allowed the school to meet the standards applicable to schools under theAmericans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and for asbestos abatement and removal. Funds for multi-year projects that were authorized under this program by the Department of Education Appropriations Act of 2001 expired on Sept. 30, 2007.
Although the U.S. Department of Education does not provide funds for building, starting, or operating private elementary and secondary schools, it does have programs that allow for private school students, teachers and, in some programs, parents to receive services (See questions 3, 4, and 5.), as well as for private schools to receive funds in return for providing certain secular services. (See questions 7 and 8.)
Certain federal education programs under the ESEA, (See question 4.) and IDEA (See question 5.) provide services and benefits to private school students, teachers and, in some programs, parents (as distinct from schools) and require that such services be provided equitably compared to services provided to students and teachers in public schools. LEAs, normally the local public school districts, are responsible for implementing these programs on behalf of private school students and teachers. Under these programs, control of funds remains with the LEA.
Under ESEA, as amended by NCLB, there are 12 programs that require the equitable participation of private school students, teachers and, in some programs, parents. The programs are:
Title I – Improving the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged
- Improving Basic Programs Operated by LEAs [Part A]
- Reading First [Part B, Subpart 1]
- Even Start Family Literacy [Part B, Subpart 3]
- Migrant Education [Part C]
Title II – Preparing, Training and Recruiting High-quality Teachers and Principals
- Teacher and Principal Training and Recruiting Fund [Part A]
- Mathematics and Science Partnerships [Part B]
- Enhancing Education Through Technology [Part D]
Title III – Language Instruction for LEP and Immigrant Students
- English Language Acquisition, Language Enhancement, & Academic Achievement [Part A]
Title IV – 21st Century Schools
- Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities [Part A]
- 21st Century Community Learning Centers [Part B]
Title V – Promoting Informed Parental Choice and Innovative Programs
- Innovative Programs [Part A]
- Gifted and Talented Students [Part D, Subpart 6]
For more information about these programs and to review a related informational publication, The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001: Benefits to Private School Students and Teachers, visit: http://www.ed.gov/nclb/choice/schools/privbenefits/index.html.
Under IDEA, LEAs must expend a proportionate share of federal IDEA funds to provide special education and related services to parentally placed private school children with disabilities in programs assisted by or carried out under Part B of IDEA. LEAs are required to consult in a timely and meaningful manner with private school representatives and representatives of parents of parentally placed private school children with disabilities during the design and development of special education and related services for these children. However, no parentally placed private school child with a disability has an individual right to receive some or all of the special education and related services that the child would receive if enrolled in a public school. Additional information on IDEA and services to parentally placed private school children with disabilities is located at: http://idea.ed.gov/explore/
In most cases, the LEA directly contacts officials of private schools located within its boundaries to begin the consultation process with school officials on key issues that are relevant to the equitable participation of private school students, teachers and, in some cases, parents in federal education programs. If this does not occur, private school officials should contact the LEA in which their private school is located and ask to speak to the individual(s) responsible for administering federal education programs.
Yes. There are some grants for which private schools and faith-based and community organizations may apply. These grant programs are generally narrow in focus and address specific needs and concerns. To the extent that a private school meets the eligibility requirements for a program (generally as set forth in the statute or regulations), the school may apply directly for these grant funds. In this case, the private school receives funds in return for providing certain services. If a private school is awarded such a grant, it then becomes a recipient of federal financial assistance and is subject to the laws and regulations that apply to recipients, including federal civil rights laws. (See question 9.)
To find out more about these programs, visit the U.S. Department of Education’s Grants webpage at:http://www2.ed.gov/fund/landing.jhtml. Additionally, for information about the eligibility of faith-based organizations to participate in U.S. Department of Education programs refer to the Education Department General Administrative Regulations (34 CFR 75.52 and 76.52).
Yes. Under Title I of the ESEA, private schools are eligible to become approved providers of SES and to receive payment for providing such services. Supplemental education services are tutoring and other academic enrichment provided outside of the regular school day to eligible public school students to help improve achievement in reading, language arts, and mathematics. Private schools are the providers only; their students are not eligible for the SES that they provide to public school students. Private schools interested in becoming SES providers should apply to their state education agency (SEA). For more information on becoming an SES provider visit the U.S. Department of Education’s web site at: http://www.ed.gov/nclb/choice/help/ses/privschools.html.
No. Private schools whose students and teachers receive equitable services under ESEA or IDEA are not considered recipients of federal financial assistance. These programs are considered to be operated for the benefit of students and teachers in private schools, not for the benefit of the private schools themselves. As a result, certain requirements that apply to recipients (which may include certain civil rights requirements and the military recruiter requirements discussed in question 10) do not apply to private schools by virtue of their students or teachers receiving equitable services under ESEA or IDEA. However, if a private school otherwise receives federal financial assistance, including a grant or subgrant of federal funds to implement a federal education program, the school would be considered a recipient.
If a private school is a recipient of federal financial assistance, that school is subject to the federal civil rights laws prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, and age. If a private school is not a recipient, but the private school’s students and teachers receive equitable services under ESEA or IDEA, the LEA involved remains responsible for ensuring that there is no discrimination with respect to the federal education program.
In general, the military recruiter requirements dictate that LEAs receiving assistance under the ESEA give military recruiters the same access to secondary school students as they provide to postsecondary institutions or to prospective employers. LEAs are also generally required to provide students’ names, addresses, and telephone listings to military recruiters, when requested, unless a parent has opted out of providing such information.
Private secondary schools are subject to the military recruiter requirements only if they receive funds under the ESEA. Private schools that do not themselves receive any ESEA funds, but whose students or teachers receive services under ESEA programs, are not considered to be recipients of funds and are not subject to the military recruiter requirements. Private schools that enroll and serve publicly funded students are not subject to the requirements if they do not receive ESEA funds. Private schools that receive funds under ESEA but maintain a religious objection to service in the armed forces that is verifiable through the corporate or other organizational documents of that school are not required to comply with this requirement. For more information about the military recruiter requirements, visit: http://www.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/hottopics/ht-10-09-02a.html.
In general, the extent to which homeschooled children may participate in these programs depends on how a state recognizes a homeschool. If a state recognizes a homeschool as a private school, the homeschooled students would be eligible to receive benefits and services similar to those received by their private school counterparts.
No. The U.S. Department of Education does not regulate or control this aspect of private schools. In other words, you do not need the permission or approval of the U.S. Department of Education to start a private school. Most of the laws and regulations you will need to follow are from state and local governments. Because states differ in how they regulate schools, you should inquire at your state Department of Education regarding laws, regulations, and policies that will affect opening and operating a private school. Information on state departments of education is located on the U.S. Department of Education’s web site at: http://www.ed.gov/about/contacts/state/index.html.
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), part of the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, has an online data bank that allows searches for private schools according to many criteria, including the type of school, location, and affiliations. Information posted on the Private School Search site was obtained from those private schools that responded to the Private School Universe Survey (PSS) conducted by NCES. To access the Private School Search site, visit: http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/pss/privateschoolsearch.
No. The U.S. Department of Education does not have the authority to accredit private or public elementary or secondary schools, and the Department does not recognize accrediting bodies for the accreditation of private or public elementary and secondary schools. However, the U.S. Department of Education does recognize accrediting bodies for the accreditation of institutions of higher (postsecondary) education. If an accrediting body that is recognized by the Department for higher education also accredits elementary and secondary schools, the Department’s recognition applies only to the agency’s accreditation of postsecondary institutions.