PRIORITY NOTICE: Mandatory Annual Notification of Eligibility for Schoolwide Programs

Updated annual notification of eligibility for schoolwide programs 

Schools that receive federal Title I funds, have poverty rates of at least 40 percent and have approved Title IA Schoolwide Plans are eligible to use their Title I funds – and funds from other sources – to develop “schoolwide programs.”

Schoolwide programs are comprehensive reform strategies, aimed at raising the achievement levels of all students.

To facilitate the inclusion of students with disabilities in schoolwide programs, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the federal regulations at 34 CFR §300.206(a) allow school administrative units to use a portion of the funds they receive under Part B of IDEA for any fiscal year to fund such schoolwide programs.

SAUs can use those funds, as long as students with disabilities receive the services to which they are entitled under their Individualized Education Programs and that are guaranteed under IDEA.

The amount of Part B funds a school expends for schoolwide programs cannot exceed the amount the SAU has received for that fiscal year, divided by the number of children with disabilities in that unit, multiplied by the number of children with disabilities participating in the schoolwide program.

For more information, contact Maine DOE’s Title I Coordinator Monique Sullivan at monique.sullivan@maine.gov, or Acting Director of Special Services Jan Breton at janice.breton@maine.gov.

 

Funding and Financial Reporting – Dollars and Sense – a Professional Development Opportunity

Looking to make the most out of your SAU money? The Maine Department Of Education School Finance Team is hosting an October training and workshop opportunity for school district leaders, including business/finance managers, finance support staff, superintendents and SAU data managers.

The training and workshop session will provide attendees with information on interpreting the state calculation for Funding Public Education Financial Report, commonly known as the ED279 Report. Participants will learn about the data impacting the ED279, and will gain insights into how to use data to better inform both financial and process decisions in their SAU.

The delivery format includes direct training in the morning, and a hands-on workshop in the afternoon, during which time participants will work with their SAU’s data and ED279 report.

Registration is open until 10/1/19.  Lunch and a continental breakfast are provided and included in the small registration fee.

Dates and Locations

October 15, 2019 Ramada Inn Conference Center – Lewiston; 8:00AM -3:00PM      REGISTER

October 22, 2019 Jeff’s Catering – Brewer; 8:00AM-3:00PM                                     REGISTER

For more information please contact Deb Lajoie-Deborah.j.lajoie@maine.gov  phone -624-6613.

Annual Audit Requirements- an Early Reminder

We know that superintendents are busy during this season of hiring and preparation for the new school year. We wanted to get audit dates to district leaders and key personnel as an early reminder, so that you can mark your calendars and take any initial steps needed.

Initial Report to the Commissioner Due November 1st:

As is required by Title 20-A MRSA 6051 §4, statements of assurance and Maine Education Financial System reconciliations are due to the Department by November 1, 2019. Please submit via email to DOE.audit@maine.gov .

  • Any adjustments identified by these reconciliations should be uploaded to the Maine Education Financial System in NEOby November 30, 2019.

Annual Audit Reports Due December 30th

Annual audit reports are due within six months after the end of the audit period (e.g., reports for the fiscal year ending June 30th are due on or before December 30th).

  • Per statute, the auditor is required to review the audit with the school board.
  • Per statute, it is the school board’s responsibility to submit the annual audit document unless it is stated in the engagement letter that the audit firm will submit the audit to the Department on behalf of the school board.
  • Municipal school units are required to submit either a combined annual audit or a school department audit and a municipal audit to the Department. The municipal annual report (a.k.a. town report) cannot be accepted in lieu of the complete municipal annual audit.
  • Per statute, Maine DOE must receive a Schedule of Expenditure of Federal Awards(SEFA), which includes federal award expenditures for all reporting entities, even if a Single Audit (formerly A-133 audit) is not required to be conducted. The SEFA provides information needed by Maine DOE to conduct sub-recipient monitoring as required by the US Department of Education and is due at the time of the annual audit.
      • In municipal school units where a combined audit is not conducted, Maine DOE should receive two audits: an audit with a SEFA for the school department, and an audit for the city/town including a SEFA.
  • If a management letter is prepared by the auditor, a copy must be submitted to Maine DOE with the annual audit, as this letter provides us with information needed to conduct sub-recipient monitoring, as required by US DOE.

Extensions and Subsidy Payments

If an extension or exception is needed for the deadline to submit either the municipal or school department audit, the superintendent must contact us to request the extension.

The forms are available on the Fiscal Review and Compliance webpage, under forms on the menu bar.

  • Extensions will expire no less than 30 days from the date the extension was submitted.
  • Extension requests will be considered until June 30th (six months after due date); extensions will not be valid after June 30th and all municipalities and school administrative units with overdue audits that have not submitted an extension request before May 31th may have a delay in subsidy release. Those who have not submitted an extension request will have subsidy withheld until addressed.

Please submit all annual audit documents, reports, information requests, questions and other audit correspondence via email to DOE.Audit@Maine.gov or via the direct link provided on the Fiscal Review and Compliance webpage.

 

PRIORITY NOTICE: School Year 2019-2020 Enacted ED279 Subsidy Printouts Now Available

Thank you for your patience as we finalized School Year 2019-2020 ED 279 subsidy printouts to reflect the enactment of Public Law 2019 Chapter 343.  You may find these on the Maine Department of Education website:

FY 2019-2020 ED 279 Printouts

The subsidy amounts allocated to each school administrative unit are calculated using the Essential Programs and Services (EPS) funding model, based on $1.163 billion in General Purpose Aid (GPA) funding appropriated in the biennial budget.  Governor Mills proposed a $41.3 million increase for GPA in her biennial budget, resulting in a lower mill expectation from the prior year, down to 8.28 from 8.48.

The legislature approved the Governor’s budget, and appropriated an additional $3 million in funds to GPA for FY 2019-20, targeted toward Career and Technical Education schools and the Maine Education Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

The majority of school administrative units will not see a change in the enacted ED 279 from the preliminary ED 279, published on February 15, 2019, which were calculated based on the proposed budget.

If you have questions or need additional information as you review your enacted ED 279, please contact our School Finance Team:  Tyler Backus at tyler.backus@maine.gov    Ida Batista at ida.batista@maine.gov  or Paula Gravelle at paula.b.gravelle@maine.gov

Questions & Answers regarding An Act to Prevent Food Shaming in Maine’s Public Schools

In an effort to support schools and districts as they align their practices and policies in response to the passing of Public Law 2019, Chapter 54, please see the Question and Answer document and resources, below.  

 Food Shaming

  1. What constitutes food shaming?  The law prevents public schools from:
  • denying a reimbursable meal to an otherwise eligible student who requests it;
  • requiring a student to throw away their meal after it has been served to them;
  • requiring a student to perform chores or work as a means of paying for one or more meals or as punishment for not paying for one or more meals;
  • refusing a meal as a form of or as part of a disciplinary action; or
  • openly identifying or otherwise stigmatizing a student who cannot pay for a meal or has payments due for a meal.

Grades

  1. What grade levels are impacted by this new law?

The law applies to all grade levels in a public school that provides students meals eligible for reimbursement under a program administered by the United States Department of Agriculture, therefore any grade enrolled in the public school.  The law does not apply to private schools.

Seniors

  1. Can schools prohibit seniors from participating in graduation functions/activities if the student has meal debt?
  2. When Seniors have balances at the end of the year, whether it is for meals, books, or computers, we do not pass out the cap and gown until the balance is paid.  Can we still do that?
  3. Our district charging policy has been that to receive graduation tickets or their cap and gown, seniors must have their lunch balance cleared up. Additionally, we have withheld open campus privileges or a superintendent’s agreement if there is an outstanding lunch balance. Will this still be allowable?

The law prevents openly identifying or otherwise stigmatizing a student with a meal debt.  If the only reason a student is being prohibited from an activity is because of a meal debt, it would constitute identifying or stigmatizing a student.  If the prohibition is potentially based on one of a list of factors (owed books, uniforms, other debt) including a meal debt, it might not constitute identifying or stigmatizing a student, since there are multiple reasons for which a student is denied.  School administrative units are encouraged to consult with legal counsel about their specific policies.

Communication

  1. Are the cashiers allowed to tell the students when they are charging or close to charging?

A public school’s communications about a student’s meal debts (charging) must be made to the parent or guardian of the student rather than to the student directly except that, if a student inquires about that student’s meal debt, the school may answer the student’s inquiry.  A public school may ask a student to carry to the student’s parent or guardian a letter regarding the student’s meal debt.  A student with a low balance still has funds on their account and is not in debt, therefore it is allowable to communicate with a student about their low balance.

  1. Are we allowed to let the children know that they are getting low on their account?

A student with a low balance still has funds on their account and is not in debt, therefore it is allowable to communicate with a student about their low balance.

  1. Most software schools are using automatically say “Please wait, low balance,” when a student uses their PIN. which is identifying the student, where others can hear it. Would that still be acceptable?

A student with a low balance still has funds on their account and is not in debt, therefore it is allowable to communicate with a student about their low balance.

  1. If a student directly asks about balance information what is our answer? What if they are 18 years old?

If the student inquires about his/her meal debt, the school may answer the student’s inquiry. This applies to a student enrolled at the public school, regardless of age. A student may be asked to deliver a notice to parents/guardians about the debt, but should not be approached unsolicited about the debt.

  1. Can we post a sign at the register telling students they can ask what their account balance is?

Yes. If the student inquires about their meal debt, the staff may answer their inquiry. Otherwise communication must be made directly to the parent/guardian, regardless of the age of the student.

A La Carte

  1. Our school policy says that if you owe money you cannot purchase a la carte items and there is no charging of a la carte items.  This policy has helped to keep our lunch debt down some. Are we still going to be able to say no to the extra items if they don’t have money?

Yes. This law applies to reimbursable meals only. If your local policy does not allow a student to charge a la carte items, a public school may discreetly notify a student that they do not have funds on their account to purchase the a la carte item(s).

  1. Charging for ala carte is not allowed so when the student is told that in line in front of other students, is that considered lunch shaming?

No. This law applies to reimbursable meals only. If your local policy does not allow a student to charge a la carte items, a public school may notify a student discreetly that they do not have funds on their account to purchase the a la carte item(s).  Efforts to make this policy known and well publicized should be made to avoid the situation and potential for embarrassment.

Alternate Meals

  1. Can Schools implement an alternative meal (with all components) until the debt is paid?

No, the student must receive the same reimbursable meal as the other students. Provision of an alternative meal could openly identify or stigmatize a student.

  1. Our school provides a bag lunch to students with a negative balance before the lunch period so that it looks like a lunch brought from home. Can we keep doing this?

No, the student must receive the same reimbursable meal as the other students.

Outstanding Debt

  1. What are we to do with the outstanding lunch balances? How do we encourage parents to be responsible?

Public schools should follow their policy or procedure for collecting payments from families. This policy/procedure should be shared publicly so parents are informed of the process.

  1. Can we send outstanding debts to a collection agency?

Yes.

  1. What happens when everyone owes and refuses to pay because they know they do not have to, in order to get a meal?

The school nutrition program should make efforts to collect meal payments as identified in their local policy.

  1. Who will pay for the unpaid balances?

The school nutrition program should make efforts to collect meal payments as identified in their local policy. Once the debt is determined to be uncollectable, such as after a student leaves the district or graduates, it is considered bad debt and is not an allowable expense of the Federal school foodservice program or any other Federal program. The debt would need to be paid by non-Federal funds, such as the general fund and the debt would become the responsibility of the public school at this point.

OTHER

  1. What is the State’s plan to provide funding for the lunch bills that won’t get paid?

The law was identified as an unfunded mandate and passed by a 2/3 vote by the Legislature.  Funding will need to be addressed at the local level.

  1. Does this apply to all meals, breakfast, lunch and snack?

This law applies to all programs that provide student meals eligible for reimbursement under a program administered by the United States Department of Agriculture. This includes the School Breakfast Program, National School Lunch Program and Afterschool Snack Service.

  1. Is there guidance available on how to handle unpaid meals?

The law requires the Department of Education to develop guidance for school administrative units relating to the collection of student meal debt, including, but not limited to, best practices and information on how to create an online system for the payment of student meal debt.

The Maine DOE has guidance available online, and  The USDA has guidance and resources available online, including a guide book.