The Truth About Private School Funding in California

As an education expert in California, I am often asked about the state's policies on funding for private schools. Many parents are curious if there are any programs that offer public funding for private school enrollment. The answer is no, with one exception. If a student has a disability, their public school district may place them in a non-public school and provide funding for their education.

However, this is the only instance where public funds can be used for private school tuition. Recently, some states such as Iowa, Utah, and Arkansas have created savings account programs for education, known as ESA. These programs allow states to deposit money into each student's account, which families can then use to pay for private school tuition. In some cases, the amount provided by the state may be lower than the cost of tuition at a private school, so families would need to cover the remaining expenses. It's important to note that the State Superintendent does not administer an application process for students interested in attending private schools. They also do not evaluate students' eligibility or maintain a list of accrediting agencies.

This means that families must do their own research and due diligence when selecting a private school for their child. In California, all children between the ages of 6 and 18 are required by law to attend either public, private, or homeschooling school. Private schools have long been a popular option for parents who want to provide their children with a quality education. However, without any state funding available, private school tuition can be a significant financial burden for many families. Under the ESA program, participating students can use the funds in their account to pay for tuition, fees, and other educational expenses charged by the private school. Currently, there are nearly 6.6 million elementary and secondary school students in California, with 6 million attending public schools, 471,000 in private schools, and 84,000 who are homeschooled.

This means that there is a large pool of potential participants for the ESA program. It's expected that most current private school students and schools would participate in the program within the first five years. This is because the annual funding provided by the state is relatively large, and the participation requirements are relatively modest. For example, private schools can receive reimbursement for serving qualifying meals under the school lunch program. The success of the ESA program will depend on the number of participating students and how both public and private schools respond to the measure. The California Constitution mandates that the state must organize and fund a public school system that provides free education to all students.

This means that any changes to education funding must be carefully considered and implemented. For families who are interested in enrolling their child in a private school through the ESA program, there are a few steps they must follow. First, they must open an account with the state. Then, they can enroll their child in a participating private school and submit a participation agreement to the state. If the cost of tuition at their chosen private school exceeds the amount provided by the state, families will need to cover the remaining expenses. It's worth noting that private schools that did not apply for the second round of Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) loans are also eligible to receive funds through this program.

This is good news for private schools who may have been struggling financially due to the pandemic. The California state legislature has recently introduced or approved several charter school bills. These bills aim to provide more options for families when it comes to education, including charter schools and other alternative schooling options. Private schools are located throughout the state, with all but four small counties having at least one private school.

Jeannette Daehn
Jeannette Daehn

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