State Tribal Education Partnership (STEP)
- State-Tribal Education Partnership (STEP) pilot Grant competition Fiscal year (FY) 2012 frequently asked questions
- What is the purpose of the STEP tribal education agency (TEA) pilot?
- What is an SEA, and what do we mean by “SEA-level functions”?
- What are the ESEA State-administered formula grant programs, and which programs could TEAs and SEAs include in a pilot?
- Can an SEA provide part of its State set-aside funding for administrative costs under an ESEA formula grant program to its TEA partner in the STEP pilot?
- Will TEAs receive State-administered formula grant program funds from the Department to distribute to the affected LEAs during the pilot?
- Will a TEA receiving a STEP pilot grant become the agency responsible to the Department for ensuring compliance with statutory and regulatory requirements?
- If a TEA and SEA decide to undertake joint functions, such as monitoring or providing technical assistance, would that count as the TEA assuming administrative functions?
- What are examples of SEA-level responsibilities that a TEA might assume as part of this pilot?
- Does the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) prohibit a TEA from collecting or receiving data on students as part of its agreement with the SEA?
- What does the Department expect to see in a Preliminary Agreement (versus the Final Agreement) between a TEA and an SEA?
- What is meant by “capacity-building” and “technical assistance” as part of this pilot?
- Are Bureau of Indian Education-funded schools (BIE) eligible to participate in the pilot?
- Must the Preliminary Agreement submitted with the application be signed by the parties, and if so, which individuals can sign on behalf of each entity?
- What documentation must be submitted in an application by members of a consortium, either to show the agreement among the members, or to show the eligibility of the individual member TEAs?
1. State-Tribal Education Partnership (STEP) pilot Grant competition Fiscal year (FY) 2012 frequently asked questions
These frequently asked questions (FAQs) are designed to provide applicants for funding from the STEP tribal education agency pilot program with information about the 2012 competition.TOP
2. What is the purpose of the STEP tribal education agency (TEA) pilot?
The purpose of the STEP pilot is to increase the role of tribal education agencies in the education of American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) students so that TEAs and State educational agencies (SEA) can, through collaboration, better meet the needs of AI/AN children. The funds awarded by this program must support the activities detailed in the preliminary and final agreements (see question 10), which include efforts to build the capacity of TEAs to perform certain State-level functions for certain formula grant programs in public schools operating on Indian reservations. Those grant programs are the State-administered formula grant programs under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as amended (ESEA) (see question 3).TOP
3. What is an SEA, and what do we mean by “SEA-level functions”?
As defined in section 9101(41) of the ESEA, a “State educational agency” is the agency primarily responsible for the State supervision of public elementary schools and secondary schools. Depending on the particular program authorization, SEA-level functions include making subgrants (either competitively or by formula) to local educational agencies (LEAs) and other subgrantees; developing policy; providing technical assistance to subgrantees; monitoring for compliance; collecting, analyzing, and reporting performance information; and evaluating programs. (See question 8). A TEA cannot take on an SEA’s subgranting function. It can, however, agree to take on any of the other functions, under agreement with the SEA, consistent with State procurement laws.TOP
4. What are the ESEA State-administered formula grant programs, and which programs could TEAs and SEAs include in a pilot?
ESEA State-administered formula grant programs are the programs for which States: receive ESEA formula funding, may subgrant these funds to LEAs or other entities (in accordance with statutory allocation formulas or other criteria), and oversee the use of those funds by subrecipients. Therefore, ESEA State-administered formula grant programs do not include formula grant programs such as Impact Aid (Title VIII) and Indian Education Grants to Local Educational Agencies (Title VII, Part A) because the Department makes these grants directly to local educational agencies (LEAs).
The programs that may be included in a STEP pilot are:
- Title I, Part A;
- School Improvement Grants (ESEA §1003(g));
- Migrant Education (Title I, Part C);
- Neglected and Delinquent State Grants (Title I, Part D);
- Improving Teacher Quality State Grants (Title II, Part A);
- English Learner Education State Grants (Title III, Part A);
- 21st Century Community Learning Centers (Title IV, Part B); and
- the Rural and Low-Income School Program (Title VI, Part B).
5. Can an SEA provide part of its State set-aside funding for administrative costs under an ESEA formula grant program to its TEA partner in the STEP pilot?
This will depend on the provisions of the agreement entered into between the TEA and the SEA. SEAs are not required to provide a portion of their formula grant administration funds to the TEA in order to participate in this pilot; however, an SEA could agree to provide a TEA with a portion of these funds, in accordance with applicable State procurement laws, in order to enable the TEA to assume certain ESEA State-level functions. If the TEA and the SEA agree to share formula grant administrative funds, the fund distribution must be detailed in the budget submitted to the Department with the grant application. There are several ways applicants and SEAs could share funding: (a) share the STEP grant award only; (b) share the STEP grant award and the SEA’s grant administration funds; (c) share the SEA’s grant administration funds but only the TEA uses the STEP grant award; or (d) share no funds. The ultimate goal of the distribution of funds should be to support the objectives of the pilot.TOP
6. Will TEAs receive State-administered formula grant program funds from the Department to distribute to the affected LEAs during the pilot?
No. The Department will not grant formula funds to TEAs as a part of this pilot. The Department cannot change the designated grantee under an ESEA program from an SEA to a different entity without a statutory change. The FY 2012 Appropriations Act does not provide that authority. STEP grant funds to successful applicants will consist only of discretionary funds appropriated for this competition. However, a TEA and SEA may distribute funds according to the options listed in question 4. SEAs that participate in the pilot will continue to subgrant ESEA State-administered formula funds to eligible LEAs in the State, including to LEAs with schools involved in the pilot. SEAs will continue to have the responsibility and authority to ensure subrecipient compliance with the applicable laws and regulations governing all ESEA State-administered formula grant programs. The Department will continue to monitor the performance of the SEA as the agent required to comply with the requirements of Federal laws and regulations related to the administration of the ESEA.TOP
7. Will a TEA receiving a STEP pilot grant become the agency responsible to the Department for ensuring compliance with statutory and regulatory requirements?
No. As noted in the response to question 5, the SEA will remain responsible for compliance with ESEA program requirements. The Department will continue to monitor the performance of the SEA as the agent required to comply with the requirements of Federal laws and regulations related to the administration of the ESEA.TOP
8. If a TEA and SEA decide to undertake joint functions, such as monitoring or providing technical assistance, would that count as the TEA assuming administrative functions?
Yes, it could. The types of SEA-level functions that a TEA will perform by the end of year one and for the remainder of the grant period will depend on the terms of the agreement reached by the TEA and SEA. A TEA’s assumption of State-level responsibilities under an agreement could include carrying out certain responsibilities jointly with the SEA. Alternatively, TEAs could take on an activity on its own, on behalf of the SEA. Under either option, SEAs would retain legal responsibility to the Department, as discussed in question 5.TOP
9. What are examples of SEA-level responsibilities that a TEA might assume as part of this pilot?
Examples of responsibilities that a TEA might carry out through the pilot include:
a. Under Title I-A, Part A, a TEA could propose in its STEP pilot grant proposal to develop a reservation-wide Title I-A implementation plan in collaboration with the SEA. A TEA could also choose to provide technical assistance to LEAs on various topics related to the implementation of Title I, such as technical assistance on school improvement.
- b. Under Title II-A (Improving Teacher Quality State Grants), a TEA could propose in its STEP pilot grant proposal to work with the SEA on developing teacher evaluation systems, providing training and support to teachers and school leaders, or providing technical assistance to LEAs.
- c. See also the general examples of SEA-level responsibilities in question 2. Please note, however, that a TEA is never authorized to make subgrants (either competitively or by formula) under the STEP pilot program.
10. Does the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) prohibit a TEA from collecting or receiving data on students as part of its agreement with the SEA?
FERPA does not prohibit data-sharing with TEAs if required steps and safeguards are followed. FERPA generally prohibits the disclosure of personally identifiable information from students’ education records without parental consent; however, an LEA or SEA could release information on students to a TEA in non-personally identifiable form. In addition, an LEA or an SEA may designate an Indian tribe or TEA as its authorized representative to audit or evaluate Federal or State-supported education programs, under the conditions set forth in the Department’s regulations. See 34 CFR 99.3, 99.31(a)(3), 99.35. 76 FR 75604 (December 2, 2011).TOP
11. What does the Department expect to see in a Preliminary Agreement (versus the Final Agreement) between a TEA and an SEA?
An applicant TEA must submit a preliminary agreement between the TEA and the SEA with its application for funding. The preliminary agreement must document the commitment of the SEA and TEA to work together and must include all of the elements required in the notice.
Over the course of the planning period (the period before July 1, 2013), the TEA and SEA must develop a final agreement, which may include amending some of the statements included in the preliminary agreement. Therefore, the development of a final agreement is included as a required activity of year one of the grant.
By June 29, 2013, nine months after the start of the grant, each TEA grantee must submit to the Department a final agreement that builds on the preliminary agreement and details a feasible, sustainable plan for how the TEA and SEA will work together and in collaboration with affected LEAs to administer selected ESEA State-administered formula grant programs for identified public schools on Indian reservations. The final agreement must contain all of the required elements listed in the notice.
12. What is meant by “capacity-building” and “technical assistance” as part of this pilot?
We expect that a major component of both the preliminary and final agreements will be descriptions of capacity-building activities to be conducted by and for the TEA and SEA. By “capacity-building activities,” we mean activities intended to increase the capacity of the:
TEA to carry out State-level responsibilities under the affected ESEA programs;
TEA and SEA to work together effectively on meeting the objectives of this pilot program; and
SEA to understand the unique cultural and academic needs of the AI/AN students enrolled in participating schools and how to address them more effectively.
We expect that capacity-building to occur through the provision of technical assistance. By “technical assistance,” we mean activities that enable the recipient to effectively perform certain tasks or functions.TOP
13. Are Bureau of Indian Education-funded schools (BIE) eligible to participate in the pilot?
No. The definition of “eligible schools” under the STEP pilot program does not include BIE schools. Furthermore, individual schools (including individual BIE schools) could not apply for grants, because the pilot program will make grants to TEAs, not to schools. However, TEAs on reservations that include BIE schools can apply for funding if there is also a public school or schools on the reservation. In particular, if a reservation includes both State public schools and BIE schools, the activities under the grant (and under the TEA’s agreement with the SEA) can include addressing the needs of students who move between State public schools and BIE schools.
The funds under this pilot will be used by the TEA to build relationships with the LEA and SEA, and help with the State public schools on the reservation. If a TEA wants also to enter a separate agreement with BIE regarding the BIE-funded schools on the reservation, it can, of course, do so.TOP
14. Must the Preliminary Agreement submitted with the application be signed by the parties, and if so, which individuals can sign on behalf of each entity?
The Preliminary Agreement submitted as part of the application must be signed by representatives of the TEA and the SEA. The choice of which individual should sign the Preliminary Agreement on behalf of a TEA is a matter for tribal law or procedures. Likewise, the issue of who should sign on behalf of the SEA is a matter for State law or procedures. If the applicant is a consortium, either all TEA consortium members can sign the Preliminary Agreement with the SEA, or the lead applicant can sign on behalf of all members. TOP
15. What documentation must be submitted in an application by members of a consortium, either to show the agreement among the members, or to show the eligibility of the individual member TEAs?
The Education Department General Administrative Rules (EDGAR) contain specific requirements for consortium applications (34 CFR §§75.127-.129). One of these requirements is that the applicant must submit a consortium agreement with its application. The agreement must detail the activities that each member of the consortium will perform, and must bind each member of the group to every statement and assurance in the application. The agreement may also, at the option of the members, include other terms, such as how the funds will be shared, or how each member plans to budget its funds.
Therefore, for the STEP program, an application by a consortium must include both the signed Preliminary Agreement between the consortium and SEA, and a signed consortium agreement of the TEAs. The consortium agreement must be signed by a representative of each TEA that is a member.
In addition, because under EDGAR only eligible parties can be members of a consortium application, documentation as to each TEA’s eligibility must be submitted with the application. Thus, not only must the lead TEA submit the required certifications (see “Eligibility Requirements” in the Notice Inviting Applications or in the Application Instructions), but each member TEA must also submit those certifications. However, for the SEA’s confirmation that the schools that will participate in the project are eligible public schools, the SEA does not need to submit separate letters or other confirming documents for each TEA member, but may combine them in one document. The SEA may also choose to use the Preliminary Agreement as the vehicle for the confirmation regarding the schools.