Private School Regulation

Maine

Registration/Licensing/Accreditation: Attendance at a private school satisfies the compulsory attendance requirement if the private school is approved for attendance purposes or is recognized by the Department of Education as providing equivalent instruction. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, § 5001-A.

A private school may operate as an approved private school for attendance purposes (basic school approval) if it meets hygiene, health, and safety standards and is either currently accredited by the New England Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools or meets applicable state requirements. The state requirements mandate compliance with: 1) immunization provisions; 2) English as the language of instruction; 3) courses required by law; 4) instruction in the basic curriculum established by the Commissioner; 5) certified teachers, and additional approval requirements adopted by the State Board and the Commissioner. In addition, private secondary schools applying for approval for attendance purposes must meet requirements of a minimum school year, sufficient school day length, student-teacher ratio of not more than 30 to one, not less than 2 consecutive grades, and adequate maintenance of safely protected records. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, § 2902. The Commissioner may remove basic approval pursuant to a hearing for failure to meet applicable approval requirements. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, § 2904.

Schools choosing the accreditation method of approval for attendance purposes must make accreditation reports to the Commissioner on a timely basis and notify the Commissioner of any determination that the school is not accredited or is on probation. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, § 2906.

A private school which has chosen not to seek approval by the Department of Education may voluntarily provide information on an annual basis to the Commissioner and/or Superintendent to establish students enrolled are receiving equivalent instruction in compliance with the compulsory school attendance law. The information should be provided in an annual letter signed by the chief administrator of the private school and include an affirmation that the school provides the basic curriculum by competent teachers for a minimum of 175 days or 875 hours; complies with fire, health, and safety laws; provides academic assessment and progress reports for parents; and, attendance notification to the local Superintendent. "Guideline for Equivalent Instruction in Non-Approved Private Schools, Department of Education."

A nonprofit institution may operate as an approved nontraditional limited purpose school if it demonstrates a commitment to the educational process and to the State's youth by possessing: 1) a governing board composed of a cross section of the community; 2) an established educational plan; 3) a written curriculum with appropriate goals, objectives and instructional strategies; 4) specific instructional time commensurate with the educational activities planned; 5) facilities that comply with state health, safety and fire codes; 6) an instructional staff certified by the Department of Education where appropriate and endorsement by professional boards in areas where the State does not have certification standards or professional standards agreed upon by the department and the respective institution; 7) school health services that include a registered nurse in residence when students are in attendance or the appointment of a school or consulting physician; 8) established written emergency and safety procedures including periodic fire drills whenever appropriate; 9) unique up-to-date equipment necessary to the services provided; 10) a demonstrated commitment to work cooperatively with state public schools in an effort to meet the specific aspiration needs of Maine students; and, 11) scholarship assistance to the State's youth. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, § 2907.1. Code Me. R. § 250.

Recordkeeping/Reports: By April 15th and October 15th of each year, the principal of each private school must report to the Commissioner the number of students attending his/her school. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, § 6004.

A student is credited with attendance at a private school only if a certificate showing the name, residence and attendance of the person at the school, signed by the school administrator, has been filed with the school officials of the local administrative unit. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, § 5001-A.3.A.(2).

Chief administrative officers shall keep uniform records of the immunization status of each student. The records shall be part of the student's permanent records. By December 15th of each year, each chief administrative officer shall submit to the Director of the Bureau of Health on a form provided a summary report of the immunization status of the students entering school. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, § 6353.5.

A private secondary school receiving state funds, directly or indirectly, and a private school approved for tuition and attendance purposes must report annually, on or before July 15th, information required by the Commissioner. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, § 2952. An annual audit must be furnished to the State Auditor on or before September 1st of each year. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, § 2953.

See Special Education.

Length of School Year/Day: A private secondary school approved for the purposes of attendance must have at least 175 instructional days. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, § 4801.1

Instruction in English: English is the basic language of instruction in all schools except, subject to the Commissioner's approval, schools may provide transitional instruction using bilingual techniques for students of limited proficiency in English and providing proficiency in English and a second language. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, § 4701.

Discrimination: Private schools approved for tuition purposes are prohibited from unlawful educational discrimination on the basis of sex, physical or mental disability or national origin or race. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 5, §§ 4553, 4602, 4604.

Health and remedial services, instructional materials and equipment provided with appropriated public funds, and the admission to recipient nonpublic schools must be provided without distinction as to race, creed, color, or the national origin of the pupil and of their teachers. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 30-A, § 5724.9.

Teacher Certification: Teachers must be certified by the commissioner to teach in any private school receiving basic approval, except those schools currently accredited by the New England Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, §§ 2901, 13003.

A private school approved for tuition purposes may not employ a provisional teacher unless it has an approved, locally designed, support system or has received specific authorization from the Commissioner. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, § 13015.

Curriculum: Private elementary schools approved for attendance purposes by the department must provide instruction in reading, writing, spelling and grammar; library instruction; mathematics; science; music, art and drama; American History and government; social studies; Maine Studies, including the history, geography, culture and natural and industrial resources of the State; health, hygiene and safety; physical education; and physiology and hygiene with special reference to the effects of substance abuse, including alcohol, tobacco and narcotics upon the human system. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, §§ 2902.3, 4706, 4711.

Private secondary schools approved for attendance purposes by the department must provide instruction in English, Social Studies and history including American History and Maine studies, mathematics, science, fine arts, health and physical education, and computer instruction. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, §§ 2902.3, 4706, 4722, 4723, 4724.

Private schools approved for attendance purposes must provide instruction in the basic curriculum established by rule by the Commissioner, including minimum time requirements and performance standards. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, §§ 2902.4, 4704.

Private schools approved for attendance purposes may participate in the State Assessment of Student Performance program with the approval of the Commissioner and upon payment of the actual cost of the assessment. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, § 6207.

Private schools approved for tuition purposes, whose enrollment includes at least 60% publicly-funded students, must participate in the Statewide Assessment Program. The assessment program measures the academic achievement of students in grades 4, 8, and 11 in basic subjects, i.e. reading, writing and mathematics, and potentially science and social studies on a sampling basis in alternate years. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, § 6202.

Only driver education teachers certified by the Commissioner may be employed by an approved private secondary school to teach driver education. If a certified instructor is unavailable and the private school requests, the Commissioner may grant a temporary certificate to any person who holds a Class A license. Approved private secondary schools may contract with a commercial driver education school to provide driver education as part of the secondary school curriculum. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, § 8703.

Special Education: The Commissioner may require that special education programs in approved private schools comply with rules regulating the public schools. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, § 7501. It is the duty of the Commissioner to define allowable special education services and the qualifications of individuals who provide special education services by regulation. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, § 7252-B. All special education programs offered by approved private schools must be: 1) under the supervision of the school administrative unit responsible for the education of the enrolled exceptional student; 2) described in a master contractual agreement between the private school and the Commissioner; and 3) approved in advance of the enrollment of any exceptional student. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, § 7252-A.

Approved private schools providing special education services must submit reports as required by the Commissioner. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, § 7252-B.

The Commissioner regulates tuition rates for private special education programs publicly funded by the state. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, § 7302.

The Commissioner will investigate written complaints against private schools serving exceptional students according to adopted procedures. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, § 7206.

Health: No chief administrative officer may permit any student to be enrolled or attend school without evidence of required immunization or immunity unless the parent/student provides a written statement that immunization may be medically inadvisable or a written statement that immunization is contrary to a sincere religious belief or opposed for moral, philosophical or other personal reasons. Upon notice from a public health official that a student's presence presents a clear danger to the health of others, a chief administrative officer shall cause the student to be excluded from school during the period of danger or until the student is immunized. Private schools may adopt more stringent immunization requirements. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, § 6353.3, 4, 6.

The Department of Education offers technical assistance to approved private schools to aid in the establishment of school-based substance abuse programs and health education curricula. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, § 6605.

Medication may not be administered by unlicensed personnel at private schools, except as provided by the written prescription of a physician or dentist or by written permission of the parent/guardian. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, § 254.

Safety: A state liquor store or an agency liquor store may not be established within 300 feet of any K-12 private school. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 28-A, § 351.

It is a civil offense to disturb a private school during or out of school hours while a teacher or student is present and is punishable by a fine not less than $2 nor more than $20. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, § 6804.

Transportation: Municipalities may appropriate money to provide transportation of school children to and from nonprofit schools other than public schools. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 30-A § 5724.5.

Home Schooling: Individual families who are planning to instruct their own children shall provide information to the Commissioner and to the Superintendent of the public school administrative unit where the family resides. This information will enable the Commissioner to determine if the children are receiving equivalent instruction for the purposes of compliance with the compulsory attendance law. Chap. 130, Rules for Equivalent Instruction Through Home Instruction.

By way of the Application for Equivalent Instruction Through Home Instruction, parents agree to provide competent instructor, defined as either a tutor holding or eligible to hold a Maine teaching certificate or a tutor who will be assisted by a satisfactory support system. The support system is provided by a Maine certified teacher, a public or private school in Maine, another family conducting a home instruction program for at least one year, or other support system such as a local home school support group.

The instructional day will be of adequate length of time to accomplish the proposed educational program. The instructional year will meet at least 175 days.

Instruction will be provided in English Language arts, math, science, social studies, physical education, health education, library skills, fine arts, and, in at least one grade between grades 6 and 12, Maine studies. Additionally, at one grade level between grades 7-12, the student will demonstrate proficiency in the use of computers.

Instructional materials and textbooks must be available and adequate. A plan of assessment must measure the student?s academic abilities and progress at least four times each year. Records must be kept and they must be made available to the Commissioner upon request. There will be an annual assessment of the student?s progress. Results of the assessment are sent to the local school superintendent and the state department of education. Students in grades 4,8, and 11 must participate in the Maine Educational Assessment at the local school.

Public Aid for Private Schools/Private School Students: The Maine Constitution states that it is the Legislature's "duty to encourage and suitably endow academies, colleges, and seminaries of learning within the state," provided that the Legislature has the right to grant any further powers to "limit or restrain any of the powers vested in, any such literary institution, as shall be judged necessary to promote the best interests thereof." Maine Const. art. 8, Sec. 1.

Municipalities may appropriate money to purchase approved secular textbooks and loan them to pupils or parents of pupils attending nonpublic elementary and secondary schools upon request. The requests for texts submitted by nonpublic school pupils or parents will be forwarded to the nonpublic school for administrative convenience. The nonpublic school will prepare a collective summary of the individual requests and submit the summary to the school committee or board of directors. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 30-A, § 5724.6.

Municipalities may appropriate money to provide physician, nursing, dental and optometric services to pupils attending nonpublic elementary and secondary schools if available to pupils attending public schools. Services may be provided to nonpublic school students in the nonpublic school attended. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 30-A, § 5724.7.

Municipalities may appropriate money to provide standardized tests and scoring services in use in the public schools to pupils attending nonpublic elementary and secondary schools. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 30-A, § 5724.8.

A school district may contract with a private school approved for tuition purposes for all or part of its secondary school pupils. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, §§1258, 2702-4.

A private secondary school may be approved for the receipt of public funds for tuition purposes if it: 1) meets the requirements for basic school approval; 2) is a nonsectarian school; 3) is incorporated under the laws of Maine or the United States; 4) complies with reporting and auditing requirements; and 5) if the school enrolls 60% or more publicly-funded students, participates in the Statewide Assessment Program. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, § 2951.

Tuition payments to private schools approved for tuition purposes must be paid within 30 days of the billing date. If the tuition is not paid accordingly, the principal of the private school must inform the Commissioner. The Commissioner will pay the tuition due and deduct that amount from the state school subsidy to the school administrative unit owing tuition. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, § 5810.

Tuition rates charged to school administrative units for publicly placed students in private elementary and secondary schools are regulated. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, §§ 5804-5806.

Private schools may adjust their tuition rates for the cost of removing architectural barriers to comply with the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973 with prior approval of the Commissioner. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, § 5807.

A municipality may not provide services, materials or equipment for use in religious courses, devotional exercises, religious training or any other religious activity. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 30-A, § 5724.9.

The state is authorized to administer programs under the Child Nutrition Act benefiting private school students provided the State is not required to appropriate state funds for meals served in private schools. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, § 6602.

Sales to schools; sales of meals served by private schools, student organizations and parent-teacher associations to the students or teachers of a school; and, the sale of automobiles used in driver education programs are exempt from sales tax. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 36, § 1760.

Private schools approved for tuition purposes are eligible for innovative education grants to promote creative improvement in the schools of the state. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, § 17101.

The Department of Education may award subgrants to private schools out of federal grant funds when permitted by the terms of the funding statute. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, § 15401.

The Commissioner may contract with a private school for applied technology courses that meet the public secondary school standards. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, § 3002.

Approved nontraditional limited purpose schools are ineligible for state subsidy. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, § 2907.4.

Private schools approved for tuition purposes whose school enrollment is at least 60% publicly funded students may purchase surplus property through the Bureau of Purchases. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 5, § 1813-A.

Miscellaneous: The Maine Constitution provides "all religious societies in this State, whether incorporate or unincorporate, shall at all times have the exclusive right of electing their public teachers, and contracting with them for their support and maintenance." Maine Const. art. 1. Sec. 3.

The chief administrator employed by a private school approved for attendance purposes is required to hold a principal's certificate. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, § 13019-B.

Under the Blaine House Scholars Program, loan recipients for post-secondary education may cancel the total amount of the loan by performing return services in private schools approved for tuition purposes in the state. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, §§ 12507, 12508.

The Commissioner's advisory council on truancy, dropouts, and alternative education has by statute, representation from the administrators of private schools involved in alternative education. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, § 5152. The Commissioner employs at least one consultant to provide technical assistance on alternative programs to school administrative units and private schools approved for tuition purposes. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, § 5151.

The use of animals in public and private schools is regulated by statute. Vivisection of animals in K-12 schools is prohibited. Dissection of dead animals must be confined to the classroom and the students engaged in the study and must not be for exhibition. Experiments on live vertebrate, except eggs, are restricted. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 7, § 3971.

Private schools are exempt from the state's criminal law prohibiting dissemination of obscene material to minors if exhibited for purely educational purposes. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 17, § 2911.2.

The Commissioner will periodically review all private schools that receive public funds to determine their compliance with the applicable provisions of the education code. The Commissioner may, as a condition of approval, inspect any private school that applies for approval status. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 20-A, § 258-A.



Source: U.S. Department of Education, 1999 - This information is presented for research use only and should not be construed as legal advice.  Please consult an attorney for further information.