Follow Up Regarding Private School Approval

Attention Private School Administrators and Public School Administrators:

This communication provides detailed guidance regarding timelines and tuition considerations for Private Schools seeking approval for the receipt of public funds for 2018-19.

As stated in the Maine Department of Education’s (DOE) October 2, 2018 Administrative Letter #19: 2018-2019 Clarifications Regarding Private School Approval and Publicly Funded Private School Students, there is 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.

This deadline will also apply to October counting for subsidy purposes. As the private school approval and certification processes are currently backlogged due to numerous factors, tuition will not be withheld for schools that received basic school approval and were approved for receipt of public tuition funds as of the end of FY 18 school year and are seeking approval for FY 19 school year; however, subsidy will as always be dependent on accurate reporting of October 1st enrollment counts. In order for an accurate enrollment count and to ensure that private schools are on track to receive the appropriate tuition allocation, the following guidelines should be closely followed:

    1. Private schools who have submitted or are intending to submit a school approval annual report seeking approval for the receipt of public funds for 2018-19 must submit NEO Maine Schools organizational information prior to October 15. The NEO Maine Schools form is required by all public and private schools to inform the Maine Department of Education of school and district contact information, changes in grade spans, and other school-related information. If Maine Schools is not submitted, EPS cannot be processed. It is imperative that your school’s report be submitted as soon as possible;
    2. The first instance of submitting attendance for publicly funded students at private schools, which is due quarterly, must be entered by October 15 and includes the attendance period July 1 through September 30. The next reporting period (to be entered by January 15) will require updated attendance numbers through December, and so on. 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.
    3. Publicly funded October 1st student enrollment data must be entered by October 15; certified by October 31.
    4. NEO Staff entry should be complete, with clearances and appropriate certification ensured, as soon as possible before, during, or after submission of the annual report for school approval consideration. Any certification/clearance issues should be cleared up as soon as possible, in order to ensure approval.



Please contact the MEDMS Help Desk at 624-6896, or for assistance with NEO or the student information system. Please contact the DOE Certification Team at for certification system questions. Please contact Paula Gravelle at 624-6792 or for questions about tuition. And, for questions about school approval please call Pamela Ford-Taylor at 624-6617, or

Administrative Letter: 2018-2019 Clarifications Regarding Private School Approval and Publicly Funded Private School Students

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 with questions or comments about school approval.

Maine Schools/School Approval FAQs Now Available

The Maine Department Education has posted a Maine Schools/School Approval FAQs  document on the Maine DOE Public School Approval webpage to addresses questions about public school approval and can further assist schools in the approval process for 2018-2019 specifically.

The frequently asked questions with answers have also been provided below for your convenience.

For further questions, please contact Maine DOE School Enrollment Specialist, Pamela Ford-Taylor at 207-624-6617 or

 Maine Schools/School Approval FAQs

  1. How do SAUs that operate only K-8 schools answer the CTE questions (#21 and #22)?
    The SAU may check “no” and comment “Grade Level K-8.” Please note that it is recommended currently that 6-8 schools consider introducing students to the concept of alternative pathways, in preparation for high school CTE opportunities. In addition, new legislation (see LD 1576 – An Act To Enable Earlier Introduction of CTE in Maine Schools) will require middle schools to include a CTE experience as part of the curriculum beginning in September of 2019.
  2. How do SAUs that don’t operate CTE schools answer the questions regarding CTE?
    For Question 22, regarding Perkins funding, the SAU may check “no” and enter a comment indicating CTE programming details if they are not the fiscal agent for the CTE. SAUs with a secondary school (and soon, SAUs with a middle school) each have an assigned CTE (Center or Region) as outlined in M.R.S. 20-A, Chapter 313 and must offer students an opportunity to participate in state approved CTE programing as required by M.R.S. 20-A Section 4725.
  3. How should SAUs respond when the law doesn’t go into effect until later this year; should they answer what they plan to do or what is in place currently?
    The SAU may check “no” and indicate the timeline and plan for compliance in the comment section.
  4. Will the comments be read even if the answer to the question is Yes?
  5. Do SAUs need to have actual policy documents with the titles that are in the SAU approval questions? Or can the policies be embedded within other SAU policy documents? If specific types of documents are required, are there templates available?
    The policies may be embedded within other SAU policy documents. Per DOE Rule Chapter 125, “The school administrative unit shall determine the format of the Comprehensive Education Plan. The unit’s Comprehensive Education Plan shall address all plans required by the Department to meet state and federal requirements. This may be done by integrating the multiple requirements or by including each required plan as a distinct component of the Comprehensive Education Plan.” The Department recommends indexing the location of required policies, whether they are standalone documents or part of a larger subset.
  6. How do SAUs that do not operate schools answer these questions?For the following NEO School Approval questions [only], SAUs that operate no schools may check “no” and enter a comment “SAU has no schools” and indicating where the resident students attend school:#s 1, 2, 4, 7-10, 12, 13, 15-18, 20, 22, 25-27, and 30-44.
    The requirements represented by the above questions will be waived.
    Although a Comprehensive Education Plan (CEP) is currently not required of SAUs that operate no schools, the following school approval questions refer to policies and process requirements that apply to all SAUs, including SAUs that do not operate schools. These requirements will not be waived:

3 – Nondiscrimination

5 – School finances

6 – Property disposal

11 – Transportation

14 – Personnel clearance

19 – Students with disabilities

21 – CTE opportunities

23 – English Learners (EL)

24 – Homeschool students

28 – Student assessment

29 – Dropout Prevention

45 – Rosters/Records

Please verify that the above required policies/processes are in place, and select the appropriate response during the school approval process

7.  What happened to the information that I entered in NEO?
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