ESEA and Private Schools

ESSA: A Starter Kit for Private School Educators
ESSA and Private Schools

Introduction| What is ESEA? | ESSA & Private Schools | Consultation | The Titles

The “Child Benefit Theory”ChildBenefitTheory

From its inception in 1965, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act has made various forms of assistance available to children enrolled in America’s private schools.  To uphold the integrity of constitutional church-state separation protections, the benefits offered by ESEA/ESSA are provided in a manner that assures that they accrue to children, rather than private schools, per se, and that the services are of a secular, neutral, and non-ideological nature.  In short, the assistance provided by ESSA is intended to help kids, not schools.

Private Schools Don’t Receive Government Funding

NoMoneyThe U.S. Department of Education does not regard private schools whose students and educators participate in one or more ESSA programs to be recipients of federal financial assistance.  That is because in almost every instance the funds that pay for the services in question remain under the stewardship of a public entity – generally a public school district, or state department of education.  These units of government either provide the services received by private school students and educators, directly, or contract with third-party providers to furnish the services.  Third-party providers are often recommended by private school officials.

Must Private Schools Participate?

No.  Participation in ESSA programs is purely voluntary.  No private school is required to participate, and there are no penalties for declining to do so.  However, before saying “No thank you!” it’s a good idea to learn about the programs and services that are available, as well as the accompanying procedures established by ESSA to ensure the best possible fit between the particular needs of a private school’s students and educators, and the federally funded services to be offered.  That end is accomplished through the process of consultation.


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What is ESSA?
ESSA & Private Schools
Title I:       Improving Basic Programs
Title II:      Professional Development
Title III:     Language Instruction
Title IV:     21st Century Schools
Title V:      Innovation & Local Flexibility
Title VIII:  General Provisions
Title IX:     The Homeless & Other Laws




From the U.S. Department of Education:

“Private schools whose students and teachers receive equitable services under ESEA…are not considered recipients of federal financial assistance. These programs are considered to be operated for the benefit of students and teachers in private schools, not for the benefit of the private schools themselves. As a result, certain requirements that apply to recipients…do not apply to private schools by virtue of their students or teachers receiving equitable services under ESEA. However, if a private school otherwise receives federal financial assistance, including a grant or subgrant of federal funds to implement a federal education program, the school would be considered a recipient.”

Source: USDE website: