According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), there are 23,115 private, faith-based schools educating 4.9 million students. The average private school enrollment is 142 students and more than two million private K-12 students qualify for free or reduced lunches.

Through the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the average private, faith-based school will have about $5,000 to supplement their professional development budget. If the school also enrolls children from low-income families, they should also have access to about $5,000 worth of services for students who are struggling academically.

In a nutshell: private, faith-based schools should have thousands of dollars at their disposal to support students and teachers — all at no cost to their general operating budgets.

Here’s How It Works

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) distributes more than $13 billion to support K-12 teachers and students. These funds are allocated on an impartial basis to all K-12 schools — including private, faith-based schools.

Make no mistake: private schools do not collect a check from the government, but they are entitled to receive the services purchased by these dollars. The Title I funds are used to provide academic support to students who need additional assistance in reading, math, and science, while the Title II funds are used to provide educators with professional development.

So what is the current status of private school participation in Title programs and services? About half of the nation’s private schools take advantage of these services. They have a considerable influence with how, when, and by whom the private, faith-based schools receive the Title services.

Make the Most of LEA Meetings

ESSA requires local education agency (LEA) officials from a public school district to meet with private school leaders to discuss the educational needs of the private school children, and the professional needs of the private school teachers. ESSA calls this “timely, meaningful, and ongoing consultation.”

During these face-to-face meetings (which should occur several times each year) there is to be “a genuine opportunity for all parties to express their view and have those views considered.”

The agenda should include:

  • How will the LEA identify the private school students’ needs?
  • What services will the LEA offer?
  • How, where, when, and by whom will the services be provided?
  • How will the services be assessed and improved?
  • What will be the size and scope of the services available?
  • What will be the method used to determine the number of low income children in the private school?
  • May the private school pool its funds with other schools?
  • Will a third-party provider be used to provide services to the private school?
  • What will be the process used in case there is disagreement?

Starting the ESSA Process

LEAs are required to communicate with private schools in their region. Usually, they will send a letter or email explaining ESSA programs for private schools and including an “Intent to Participate” form.

In many cases, the LEA is not aware of all of the private schools in its boundaries — to avoid missing the chance to participate, private school leaders should reach out to their LEA and update their contact information. and share the contact information of other private schools in the neighborhood, so that all schools have access to the funds that are rightfully theirs.

With all of the financial challenges facing private, faith-based schools, Title funds are some of the easiest avenues of additional funding support currently available. ESSA funds are intended to support all K-12 students and teachers — including private, faith-based schools.

Have questions or concerns about ESSA or LEA consultation meetings? Our FACTS Ed team is ready to ensure that your school has full access to the federal funding and services they deserve.