Calculating Costs for Transportation Under the Public School Choice Provision of NCLB
August 18, 2004
Dear Chief State School Officer:
We are writing today on an issue related to the provision of public school choice under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as reauthorized by the No Child Left Behind Act. The guidance provided in this letter responds to an issue regarding local educational agencies' implementation of Title I and supplements the information provided in the Department's nonregulatory guidance on Title I choice. That guidance is available at http://www.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/schoolchoiceguid.doc
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As you may know, each local educational agency (LEA) with Title I schools identified for improvement, corrective action, or restructuring must offer either public school choice or supplemental educational services, or both, to students enrolled in those schools. In providing those options, an LEA must spend an amount equal to 20 percent of its Title I allocation on the combination of choice-related transportation and supplemental educational services, unless a lesser amount is needed to satisfy student and parental demand for those options.
In implementing the public school choice requirements, an LEA might be able to provide transportation to all students under its existing transportation program, without having to create new bus routes or incur other new transportation-related expenses. For instance, some LEAs have provided, for a number of years, transportation to all students who elect to attend a school outside their neighborhood. These districts cannot use Title I funds to pay for the transportation of children changing schools under the Title I choice provisions, because doing so would violate the "supplement, not supplant" provision of the statute. (See item J-13 of the Department's guidance.) However, such an LEA may count, toward the 20 percent expenditure requirement, the portion of its transportation budget that is attributable to providing choice to students exercising the Title I option. (See item J-7 of the guidance.)
A number of State and local officials have asked us for additional guidance in this area, specifically on the issue of how an LEA in this situation is to determine the portion of its transportation budget that is attributable to students exercising choice under Title I. Our guidance is that these are to be costs that the district incurs in transporting a student who:
- Has a "home" or "neighborhood" school (to which the student would have been assigned, in the absence of a choice program) that receives Title I funds and has been identified, under the statute, as in need of improvement, corrective action, or restructuring;
- Has elected to enroll, at some point since July 1, 2002 (the effective date of the Title I choice provisions), and after the home school has been identified as in need of improvement, in a school that has not been so identified and is attending that school; and
- Is using district transportation services to attend such a school.
The amount of its transportation budget that an LEA would attribute to the transportation of students exercising choice under Title I would then be calculated by determining the portion of children transported who meet the above criteria (or through a similar calculation that reflects those criteria). For instance, if 10 percent of an LEA's students who receive transportation meet the criteria, the district could count, toward the 20 percent requirement, 10 percent of its transportation budget. LEAs should maintain clear records on how they have made this calculation.
We hope that the above guidance is helpful to you in ensuring proper administration of the choice requirements. Please make this guidance known to LEAs in your State, and please let us know if we can be of further assistance on this issue.
Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education
Nina Shokraii Rees
Deputy Under Secretary for Innovation and Improvement