Pioneer Study: Every Student Succeeds Act Not Meeting Needs of All Students

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on

Latest federal education law better on equity for private school students, but more work must be done

BOSTON – The most recent reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), makes some progress toward fulfilling the mandate that public school districts provide wide-ranging academic and educational supports to students who attend nonpublic schools, but there is more to be done, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute.

“ESSA represents a respectable, though far from sufficient, effort to update and improve its predecessor, No Child Left Behind,” said Father Tom Olson, who coauthored “Every Child Is Not Succeeding: ESSA Titles I-IV, & Religious Schools,” with Ariella Hellman and Russell Fleming.

Under the law, local school districts are supposed to set aside a “proportional share” of certain funds provided under the law for nonpublic schools in their area. District and officials must then engage their private school counterparts in meaningful and timely consultation to determine how the funds should be allocated.

Every Student Succeeds includes a number of provisions that weren’t in No Child Left Behind and earlier iterations of the ESEA. It requires each state to appoint an ombudsman to “ensure equity for private school students” and to “monitor and enforce” the equitable sharing provisions.

The new law also increases the number of topics to be discussed in consultation between school district and private school officials regarding services for private school students. It also ends the district practice of setting aside funds for certain district-wide activities, then calculating proportional share as portion of the remaining funds, rather than of all funds received under the applicable titles.

Olson, Hellman, and Fleming find that the ombudsmen have been helpful, but that it is usually just one of the responsibilities of the person in that role. As a result, their knowledge of the topic varies widely across states.

Almost all ombudsmen are state education department employees, which raises questions about their ability to be impartial when it comes to private schools.

The authors make a number of recommendations, many of them regarding the role of ombudsmen. Recommendations include the U.S. Department of Education providing a more detailed description of the position and experience it requires, as well as providing additional training and resources to new ombudsmen.

They also urge that ombudsmen be required to dedicate at least half their time to the role, and that they be housed outside state education departments to ensure impartiality.