Equitable Services Call to Action

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Equitable Services Call to Action

AASA is deeply concerned with USED’s flawed interpretation of the CARES Act’s equitable services requirements. We are calling on our members to weigh in with Congress to highlight how USED’s guidance undermines Congress’s goal of targeting CARES Act funds to high-poverty communities.

Briefly, USED’s guidance advises local educational agencies to calculate the proportionate share for CARES Act equitable services based on overall enrollment rather than poverty rates. This significantly expands the share of funding available to private schools beyond what they would have gotten under the CARES Act’s plain language. A fuller summary of the current issue is viewable in the text below.

We have created a quick and concise template you can use to let your members of Congress see how the flawed interpretation’s failure to calculate the private school share based on poverty results in a significant increase in private school allocation. All you need to complete the template email is your name, district name, and the percentage of your district’s FY19 (2019-20 school year) Title I and Title II set asides for equitable services. To submit your comments to Congress, please reach out to either your state association or Chris Rogers at crogers@aasa.org

BACKGROUND: Equitable Services (ES)

  • Provision is as old as ESEA itself and is the mechanism by which private schools receive services by reserving a share of Title I dollars. It is premised on a simple idea: Title I eligible students are to receive Title I funded support whether they are in private or public schools.
  • Under Title I, the equitable services share is based on poverty (the number of low-income children who live in Title I school attendance areas but attend private schools).
  • The Secretary’s guidance for equitable services as it applies to CARES Act dismantles this focus on targeting supports to areas with concentrated poverty and annihilates the concept of equity
  • How the bulk of CARES Act funding flows under the ESSER fund:
    • From the federal to the state level based on the share each state received of overall Title I funding in FY19 (i.e., you will receive the same share of CARES funding that you did of Title I money in FY19 based on low-income and other Title I formula children).
    • From the state to the local level based on the share each district received of overall Title I funding in FY19 (i.e., you will receive the same share of CARES funding that you did of Title I money in FY19 based on low-income and other Title I formula children). 
    • At the district level, for calculating the equitable services set-aside, count all the kids (public and private) and calculate the CARES funding based on those ratios.
      • This means private schools count all students, not just low-income students, in determining the share of CARES Act funding for equitable services.
  • In talking with USED, we highlight the following:
    • ES is an original provision of Title I of ESEA and has been continually reauthorized in a manner focused on equity and serving students in need
    • CARES Act language is very clear in its intent, stating that ES shall be applied in the same manner as section 1117 of ESSA. (Meaning, driving resources based on poverty.)
    • CARES Act funding is allocated to the state and district level based on Title I allocations, which are driven by poverty rates. Allowing private schools to use a broader, all-encompassing enrollment count without regard to poverty is not only unfair and inconsistent with the way states and locals receive their funding, it is inequitable because high poverty students in public school, are in essence, generating funds for wealthy students in private schools, which is not consistent with 1117 which determines the proportional share for equitable services based on poverty. 
    • We are opposed to this interpretation. We have submitted a letter to USED asking for a revision and are deeply engaged on the hill. Dan issued a joint public statement with Randi Weingarten of AFT on this issue. We are busy collecting numbers to highlight for Capitol Hill what the shift in funding looks like.
    • What does this mean for you? A few things:
    • Technically, this is non-binding guidance. It doesn’t carry the weight of law and you can ignore it. You, as a district, can determine that you want to adhere to section 1117’s method of determining the equitable services share and calculate share based on low-income children that live in Title I attendance areas. (Related, you could have a state that determines they disagree with ED’s guidance and does the run for you in a manner that reflects Title I.) If you pursue this route, there is a chance your state, or USED could decide that they stand by the guidance interpretation and they could issue a monitoring finding or start an audit, which comes with its own set of costs and headaches.
    • Slow roll the process to determine the equitable services share. Given the immense pressure we hope to generate, we are optimistic we can get a revision. Once the equitable service share is determined, it might be difficult to adjust that set-aside level down. If you can buy some time to see how this shakes out, you can avoid this headache. Generally, equitable services must be delivered timely, so that balance should be taken into account.
    • In terms of advocacy: look at your equitable services share percentage for your district and the state overall for both Title I and Title II in FY19 (the current school year). The percentage of the Title II grant set-aside for equitable services is a rough estimation of what the percentage private schools would receive under the CARES Act (but could be even higher).  Title II’s equitable services share is based on overall enrollment, while Title I’s equitable services share is based on poverty.  The difference in the percentage between Title II and Title I is the shift toward private schools under the CARES Act. 
      • Note: The important analysis here is the percentage of the overall grant that was set-aside for Title I vs. Title II equitable services.  Title I is funded at a much higher level than Title II in terms of overall dollars, so the dollar amount will be higher for Title I – but the overall percentage for Title I equitable services is considerable smaller because it is poverty based. Therefore, it is not the dollar amount to report but the percentage of the overall grant (that is, what percentage of the district’s funding was set aside for equitable services in Title I and Title II. THAT is the difference to highlight.)
  • This is a rapidly evolving policy priority. Stay tuned!



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