Administrative Letter: #19
Policy Code: LBC
TO: Private School Administrators; Public School Administrators
FROM: Robert G. Hasson, Jr., Ed. D. Commissioner
DATE: October 2, 2018
SUBJECT: 2018-2019 Clarifications Regarding Private School Approval and Publicly Funded Private School Students
In accordance with 20-A M.R.S. Chapter 117, the Maine Department of Education (MDOE) requires private schools seeking approval status to be approved annually.
In early July of this year, guidance was provided to all private schools with Department updates regarding the 2018-2019 school approval process.
Since then, in a collaborative effort to align current statutory requirements with the needs of private schools and execute an appropriate and consistent business process, the Department has made several decisions which revise or clarify the previous guidance. These decisions are outlined in the paragraphs below.
- The current private school annual report, pursuant to 20-A M.R.S. § 4801(2-A), requires affirmation that a private school approved for the receipt of public funds participates in the development and approval of a regional school calendar. However, some private schools receive students residing in different career and technical education (CTE) centers or regions, so it is unclear how a private school’s calendar could be aligned with more than one different regional calendar. While the Department strongly believes in the value of expanding student access to CTE and removing barriers that prevent otherwise-interested students from exploring or accessing CTE, the current statutory language is not entirely clear, and thus private schools will not be required to respond to that item on the form for the 2018-19 school year. The Department will be engaging in significant policy discussions surrounding access to CTE in the coming year in order to gain more clarity in this area.
- Private schools seeking approval for the receipt of public funds were asked to affirm, on the annual school approval report, that they would work with the school administrative unit of residence to ensure that all publicly-funded students take the State assessments. While the Department does not see this requirement as being anything more than 1) an acknowledgment of the importance of ensuring that all students who are educated at public expense are assessed and 2) a commitment to cooperate with efforts in this area, private schools will not be required to respond to that item on the form for the 2018-19 school year.
- As a reminder, the public school administrative units have an obligation to ensure that all students who are educated at public expense by private schools take the state assessments, are screened for English learner status and provided, when eligible, with appropriate English language acquisition support services, and are included in truancy data. The Department plans to provide details and technical assistance about these obligations over the coming year.
- School approval includes the requirement that all private schools provide attendance data on their publicly funded students in the NEO information system, and this will not change. Private school attendance reporting is linked to the ESSA requirement to report chronic absenteeism for all publicly funded students and must be submitted. While attendance data is not overtly listed on the private school annual report and checklist, the statutory language requiring private schools seeking approval for the receipt of public funds to “in accordance with time schedules established by the commissioner, report to the commissioner the information the commissioner may require” is. This language comes from 20-A M.R.S. § 2952, and is directly linked to school approval by Section 2951, which states that “a private school may be approved for the receipt of public funds for tuition purposes only if it: . . . [c]omplies with the reporting . . . requirement in section 2952.”
Attendance Data and School Approval Deadline
Currently, every private school that seeks tuition from an SAU is already entering information into the student information system for each student for whom they seek public funds. The attendance data entry is comprised of the number of days in the reporting period that the student is enrolled, the number of days they were present, and the number of days of excused absences. This data needs to be certified quarterly, with an initial 2018-19 submission due date of October 15. More details about attendance data submission, and a helpful training manual document, can be found in NEO Student Attendance Reporting and Attendance Manual Entry Guide.
In order to align calendars, the Department will allow a new overall 2018 deadline of October 15 for the annual report and documentation, NEO staff entry, and first reporting of attendance data to be submitted by private schools. As stated in previous guidance, the 2018-19 private school approval year as printed on approval certificates will mirror the public school approval year – July 1 through June 30. Please note that this will move the FY 2020 private school approval annual report submission deadline to an earlier date than what has previously been identified, to be announced in future guidance.
Finally, as a reminder, notification was given in the Spring of 2017 that out-of-state private schools seeking approval for the receipt of public funds for FY 19 (2018-19) would be required to complete basic school approval, which includes, at a minimum, Maine Department of Education criminal history background checks for all employees. There are, as of this date, no out of state schools that have notified the Department of their intention to seek this approval.
Please contact Pamela Ford-Taylor, Maine DOE School Enrollment Specialist at 207-624-6617 or Pamela.Ford-Taylor@maine.gov with questions or comments about school approval.