With smaller class sizes, increased interactive learning, and extracurricular activities, private schools serve as a valuable alternative to public school education. The main source of revenue for private schools is from tuition, private grants, or alumni, whereas public schools receive tax revenues and other state and federal funding. Although a private school will offer different services and develop its own budgets, the NYSED has implemented various programs that must be available to all students regardless of whether they attend public or private school.
Education Law 912 states that each school district in New York State must provide the same health and welfare services to all students in both public and private schools. The services that must be provided by the school district in which the nonpublic school is located includes, but are not limited to, all services provided by a physician, dentist, dental hygienist, school nurse, school psychologist, school social worker, and speech language pathologist. Other services that can be requested by the nonpublic school administrators include vision, hearing and scoliosis screening tests, emergency care for ill or injured students, physical examinations and in-school immunizations. The district in which the nonpublic school is located is responsible to provide such services, which must be requested of the public school by a school administrator, principal, teacher, or other person in charge of the nonpublic school. Students who attend nonpublic schools in New York City are also entitled to the same health services as students who attend public schools in New York City. The services in New York City are provided by the Office of School Health agency.
Homebound instruction is a service provided by the public-school district of residence to students in both public or nonpublic schools. If a student attending a nonpublic school is unable to attend school as per a licensed physician for a prolonged period of time (two weeks or longer) that student is entitled to homebound instruction. It is the parent or nonpublic school administrator’s duty to contact the public-school district and plan for home instruction. The nonpublic school must ensure that the student is continuing with their designated program, in addition to making sure textbooks and other materials needed are made available to the tutor. At the elementary level, students should receive a minimum of five hours per week of homebound instruction. Students at a secondary level should have a minimum of ten hours per week of homebound instruction. At the end of the interim services, the tutor should submit a report to the nonpublic school regarding the student’s progress during homebound instruction.
Textbook Loan Program:
According to section 701 of Education Law, all school boards are required to purchase and loan textbooks to all residents of the school district from kindergarten to grade twelve whether in a public or nonpublic school. Each school district receives funds from the State specifically for textbooks; the current State apportionment is $58.25 times the number of students in the district. There is no limit on how much the district can spend on one student, and no student may be denied textbooks for financial reasons if the district has not exhausted the amount apportioned by the State. It is the parent’s duty to submit the requests for the loan of textbooks to the public-school district, but it is the responsibility of the nonpublic school to provide the list of books a student needs before that time. All textbooks remain the property of the school district. The law allows the school district to make rules and regulations regarding the loan of textbooks, which may include reimbursement of the cost of the book by the student if it is damaged or lost. These rules must apply to both public and nonpublic schools within the district.
Computer Software Loan Program:
School districts are required to purchase and loan computer software programs to both public and nonpublic schools within the specified district that will be used as learning aids for the students. Each district receives $14.98 per child enrolled in kindergarten through grade 12 in any public and nonpublic schools within the district. A nonpublic school administrator must develop a written request for the loan of computer software for its enrolled students and present it to the appropriate public school officials. School districts cannot purchase computer software programs that contain anything of religious nature. Additionally, materials that are excluded under the computer software program include; computers, blank diskettes, cassettes, tapes, chips (except those included in a software package), consoles, cords, blank disks, disk drives and any other item of hardware that is similar. The district can choose to implement rules regarding damaged or lost computer software, which would apply to both the public and nonpublic school students.
School Library Materials Loan Program:
Public school districts may purchase and loan school library materials that are essential to learning in a class or program, including both printed and audio-visual materials. Each student within the district that is enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade in both nonpublic and public schools are allotted $6.25 per student to use for library materials. The amount of allocation to each district is based on the total school enrollment as of the first day of October of the base year. All materials under this program should be loaned free to the students and on an equitable basis to students in both public and nonpublic schools.
Nonpublic schools should be aware of the State Education Programs that benefit the students and learn how to effectively participate in these services.
Kelly is a senior accountant of Cerini & Associates’ audit and consulting practice. She works with nonprofit, special education and school district clients.