WFIS’ sister organization CAPSO (California Association of Private School Organizations) conveyed some important points in their Midweek Emailer. ¬†Read excerpts from the article “Gearing Up for ESSA” below:

What was the single most important remark offered by Betsy DeVos during the course of her confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee? The answer will clearly vary in accordance with one’s political leanings and education policy preferences. If you’re a member of California’s nonprofit private school community, a strong case could be made that the most significant statement made by President Trump’s choice to become the nation’s next Secretary of Education appeared in Ms. DeVos’ opening statement: “We will work together to ensure that the Every Student Succeeds Act is implemented as Congress intended…”

To hear the protestations of some of Ms. DeVos’ detractors, one might surmise that a Secretary of Education has the power to place a federally funded school voucher in the hands of every family seeking access to a private school. The reality for students enrolled, or hoping to enroll in California’s private schools, however, is that vouchers are not on the near horizon. And while other opportunities to increase access to private schools, such as education tax credits and the expansion of Coverdell education savings accounts may be facilitated by the presence of a school-choice-friendly Secretary of Education, it’s vital that private schools not lose sight of existing federal benefits for private school students and educators.

Spearheaded by the Council for American Private Education, the nation’s private K-12 schools won a number of hard-fought improvements in the nation’s major education law, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Reauthorized in December, 2015, as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the law requires public school districts to engage appropriate private school officials in “timely and meaningful consultation,” during which opportunities for participation in federally funded programs for eligible students and educators are to be explained, discussed and, if a private school so chooses, planned, implemented and evaluated.

Whereas the consultative process is intended to be continuous, planning for a coming school year typically begins in late winter, or early spring. This season’s consultative “kick off” meetings will assume particular importance, as ESSA’s new provisions are slated to become effective in the 2017-2018 school year.

It is important to remember that ESSA remains dynamic, and that a new presidential administration possesses the authority to promulgate new regulations and change existing guidance. The evolving implementation of the law is, in part, a function of the government’s responsiveness to occurrences and interactions “where the rubber meets the road,” which is to say, at the local level. In order to realize the new benefits afforded to private school students and educators by ESSA, private school leaders will need to actively pursue them, and hold public school districts accountable if they are withheld or refused. Knowing that the Secretary of Education designee is committed to the enforcement of ESSA as intended by Congress is heartening. Private school administrators must now prepare to do their part..