Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)


The final version of the revamped Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed into law in December 2015. This replaces the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) that, from 2002 until now, governed federal title programs.

When ESEA was first enacted in the mid-1960’s Congress determined that federal education aid should assist all children in need, despite what kind of school students attend. Since the revised NCLB was enacted in 2002, some inequities have surfaced over the last 13 years.

Thanks to advocacy by WCRIS and its Washington, D.C. affiliate, the Council for American Private Education (CAPE), the new law will adjust these inequities and restore the original protection of services for private schools and their students.


WCRIS schools are protected in the federal law-making process by Washington, D.C. staff at CAPE, which represents WCRIS schools. CAPE has been successful in lobbying for changes that will improve private school students and schools access to federal education programs.

Highlights of the Provisions Protecting Private Schools
Proportional Funding

Requiring that the share of federal funds for services to private school students be based on a proportion of the total allocation received by a school district before the public school district spends or transfers any of the money. This should result in more funds being available for services to private school students.

Professional Development

Requiring that equitable participation requirements for grants for teacher quality (Title II-A) be based on a district’s full allocation, rather than only on the proportion spent on professional development, as in the past.

Funding in A “Timely-Manner”

Requiring school districts to allocate monies to private school students for the fiscal year in which the funds are received by the district, and not later as has been the case in many districts.

Equitable Services

Clarification that school districts must provide eligible private school students with services on an equitable basis as requested by private school officials to best meet the needs of the children, and not just as the public school district thinks is best, which has often been the case in the past.

Consultation Between Public School Districts and Private Schools

Requiring school districts to collect written affirmation from private school officials that “timely and meaningful consultation” has occurred. The written affirmation shall provide an option for private school officials to indicate their belief that such consultation has not occurred and that the program design is not equitable for eligible private school children. This is an important new provision that will help private schools document district’s lack of consultation.

Complaint Process

Streamlining the bypass provision and complaint process and shortening its timeline so that disputes are resolved within 45 days by the state (DPI) and 90 days by federal officials (U.S. DOE).


Requiring state education agencies to designate an ombudsman to monitor and enforce equitability requirements on school districts to help ensure equity for private school children and teachers. This is an important new provision that should help private schools mediate conflicts with public school districts.

More Wisconsin Private School Ombudsman
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