Certification should not be construed as an evaluation, accreditation, approval, recognition, or endorsement of any nonpublic agency.
This document is provided for assistance and clarification of the application process for new or renewed certification as a nonpublic, nonsectarian agency (NPA). The information is based on the California Education Code (EC), Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), California Code of Regulations (CCR), California Health and Safety Code, California Penal Code (PC), as well as policies and procedures approved by the California State Board of Education (SBE).
Certification Eligibility (California Education Code Section 56035)
An NPA is a private, nonsectarian establishment or individual that provides related services necessary for a pupil with exceptional needs to benefit educationally from the pupils’ individualized education program (IEP). This does not include an organization or agency that operates as a public agency or offers public service, including, but not limited to, a state or local agency, an affiliate of a state or local agency, including a private, nonprofit corporation established or operated by a state or local agency, a public university or college, or a public hospital.
- The NPA shall meet those standards as prescribed in federal and state statutes and regulations pertaining to special education. An NPA shall also meet standards as prescribed by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SSPI) and the SBE.
- It is the intent of the Legislature that the role of the NPA shall be maintained and continued to serve as an alternative special education service available to districts, special education local plan areas (SELPAs), county offices of education, and parent(s)/guardian(s).
- An NPA shall not claim and is not entitled to receive reimbursement for attendance unless:
- It is under contract with a public education agency (i.e., school district, SELPA, or county office of education) pursuant to the provision of EC Section 56366(c); and
- The site location where the student is receiving special education or designated instruction and services has been certified by the California Department of Education (CDE).
- Students supported by federal and state education funds shall have been previously identified as eligible to receive specially designed education and related services by the public education agency where the pupil resides (a school district or county office of education) and where the pupil has a current IEP. The IEP is a plan developed between the local public school district and the parent(s)/guardian(s), along with a participant from the NPA to decide the kinds of related services each student needs.
- An NPA that is located outside California is eligible for certification pursuant to EC Section 56366.1, only if a pupil is currently enrolled in a program operated by that agency pursuant to the recommendation of an IEP team in California and that pupil’s parent(s) or guardian(s) reside in California.
- “Nonsectarian” means a nonpublic school or agency that is not owned, operated, controlled by, or formally affiliated with a religious group or sect, whatever might be the actual character of the education program or the primary purpose of the facility.
- Designated instruction and services (DIS) or related services, as specified in the IEP, shall be available when services are necessary for the pupil to benefit educationally from his or her instructional program. DIS shall be provided only by qualified personnel pursuant to the EC 56366.1(n) and Title 5 CCR 3051.
Certification Standards (California Education Code Section 56366 [d])
No master contract for special education and related services provided by an NPA shall be authorized under this part unless an agency has been certified as meeting those standards relating to the required and specified related services, and facilities for individuals with exceptional needs. The certification shall result in the agency receiving approval to provide related services to special needs students enrolled in California’s public school system.
Certification Fees (California Education Code Section 56366.1 [m])
Pursuant to EC 56366.1 (m), the agency shall be charged a reasonable fee for certification. The CDE may adjust the fee annually commensurate with the statewide average percentage inflation adjustment computed for revenue limits of unified school districts with greater than 1,500 units of average daily attendance, if the percentage increase is reflected in the district revenue limit for inflation purposes.
The fee shall be based on the following rates:
- 1 – 5 pupils $300
- 6 – 10 pupils $500
- 11 – 24 pupils $1,000
- 25 – 75 pupils $1,500
- Over 75 pupils $2,000
*Program capacity is the maximum number of students to be served by the program.
- No application shall be accepted without a check.
- No fee shall be refunded if the application is withdrawn or is denied by the CDE.
New and Renewing NPAs shall pay the applicable certification fee when submitting the Intent to Apply or Renew form to the CDE. Please note, renewing NPAs must submit the certification fee no later than October 31.
No fee shall be refunded if the application is withdrawn or is denied by the CDE.
Certification fees are required when submitting the Intent to Apply or Renew form in the form of a personal or business check, money order, or cashier's check made payable to the CDE.
Note: The name of the agency must be on the check or money order.
Master Contract (California Education Code Section 56366)
There shall be signed, current master contracts between the contracting local educational agency (LEA) and the NPA. The LEA and the NPA shall enter into a written agreement (master contract) to specify the general administrative and financial agreements in providing related services to special education students in accordance with the pupil’s IEP.
Individual Services Agreement (California Education Code Section 56366 [a][2A])
There shall be a signed individual services agreement (ISA) for each student served by the NPA. The contracting LEA and the NPA shall have an ISA in place for each student receiving related services. The ISA is similar to a prescription in that it specifies the type or duration of services to be provided by the NPA, as specified by the student’s IEP.
Staff Qualifications/Requirements (20 United States Code Section 7807 , California Education Code Section 56366.1 [n]; 5 California Code of Regulations sections 3051 and 3064)
“Qualified” means: (a) that a person has met requirements for federal and state certification, licensing, registration, or other comparable requirements that apply to the area in which he or she is providing related services, or in the absence of such requirements, the state education agency approved or recognized requirements; and (b) that he or she adheres to the standards of professional practice established in federal and state law or regulation, including the standards contained in the California Business and Professions Code.
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, only those NPAs that provide related services utilizing staff members who hold a certificate, permit, or other document equivalent to that which staff members in a public school are required to hold in the service rendered are eligible to receive certification. For clarification, please refer to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) Web site or for other licensure information, refer to the California Department of Consumer Affairs Web site .
Only those NPAs located outside California that employ staff members who hold a current valid credential or license to render special education and related services, as required by that state, shall be eligible to be certified.
Staff Fingerprint Clearance Requirements (California Education Code Section 44237)
All persons who have contact with pupils must have completed a Department of Justice (DOJ) criminal history clearance before they can be employed by the NPA. As required by EC 44237, the DOJ criminal history clearance includes both state and federal criminal record checks. For the most current information on fees and fingerprint submissions, please see the DOJ Web site .
Tuberculosis Requirements (California Health and Safety Code sections 121525-121555)
Agency staff must show proof of the absence of Tuberculosis (TB). TB examination clearance forms are to be retained at the agency’s site. TB clearances do not need to be included in the certification application unless they are specifically requested. TB clearances are valid for four years. Skin tests must be the Mantoux 5TU Co.1 cc P.P.D. injected intradermally; other skin tests are not acceptable. Only those persons with documented, positive skin tests may submit certificates to prove absence of active TB (this may or may not include a chest x-ray).
Certification at All Sites (California Education Code Section 56366.1[c])
If an NPA operates a program at more than one site, each site shall be certified.
365-Day Rule (California Education Code Section 56366.3)
No contract for special education and related services provided by an NPA shall be reimbursed by the State of California if the contract covers special education and related services, administration, or supervision by an individual who is or was an employee of the contracting LEA within the last 365 days, unless the contract contains an addendum establishing that the individual was involuntarily terminated or laid off as part of necessary reductions from the contracting LEA.
Online Application for Certification (California Education Code Section 56366.1)
In reference to EC 56366.1, an NPA that seeks new or renewed certification shall complete an online application in the California Accountability and Improvement System (CAIS) that includes the following information:
- A description of the related services provided to individuals with exceptional needs.
- A list of appropriately qualified staff; a description of the credential, license, or registration that qualifies each staff member to render designated instruction and services; and copies of their credentials, licenses, or certificates of registration with the appropriate state or national organization that has established standards for the service rendered.
- An annual operating budget for the NPA.
- Affidavits and assurances necessary to comply with all applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations, including criminal record summaries, are required of all NPA personnel having contact with minor children.
Note: Applicants are required to provide the SELPA in which the applicant is located with written notification of the applicant’s intent to seek or renew certification. This form is located in the CAIS online certification application. Online applications will not be approved by the CDE without a signed verification that the SELPA has had an opportunity to provide comments on all required components of the application.
Application Review Process (for New Nonpublic Agencies Only)
The CDE will make a determination on a new application within 120 days of submission of the new online application and will certify, conditionally certify, or deny certification to the applicant. If CDE fails to take one of these actions within 120 days, the new applicant is automatically granted conditional certification for a period terminating on August 31 of the current school year. If certification is denied, CDE shall provide reasons for the denial.
The SSPI shall annually review the certification of each NPA. For this purpose, a certified agency shall annually update its application between August 1 and October 31.
Causes for Suspension or Revocation of Certification (California Education Code Section 56366.4)
The CDE may suspend or revoke the certification of an NPA for any of the following reasons:
- Violation of any applicable state or federal rule or regulation, or aiding, abetting, or permitting the violation of any applicable state or federal rule or regulation.
- Falsification or intentional misrepresentation of any element of the application, pupil records, or program presented for certification purposes.
- Conduct in the operation or maintenance of the NPA that is harmful to the health, welfare, or safety of an individual with exceptional needs.
- Failure to comply with any provision in the contract with the local education entity.
- Failure to notify the CDE in writing of any of the following within 45 days of the occurrence: (a) changes in credentialed, licensed, or registered staff who render special education and related services; ownership, management, or control of the NPA; (b) major modification or relocation of facilities; and (c) significant modification of the NPA program.
- Failure to implement recommendations and compliance requirements following an on-site review of the agency.
- Failure to provide appropriate services, supplies, equipment, or facilities for a pupil as required in the pupil’s IEP.
- Failure to notify the CDE within 10 days of the revocation or suspension of any license or permit including, but not limited to, any residential care license, business license, or other required license or permit.
- Failure to implement a pupil’s IEP.
- Failure to notify the CDE in writing within 10 days of the death of a pupil or any other individual of unnatural causes within the agency, including the circumstances surrounding the death and any appropriate preventative measures being taken or recommended.
The CDE is required to notify contracting LEAs and the SELPA in which the NPA is located of the determination to suspend or revoke state certification.
Request for Review of Notice of Denial, Revocation, or Suspension of Certification (California Education Code Section 56366.6)
- Within 20 working days after the NPA receives the notice of denial, revocation, or suspension of certification, the NPA may file a written petition to request a review of the decision by the CDE. The petition may include written arguments or a request to present an oral argument.
- Within 30 working days after the receipt of the written petition, the CDE or a designee shall review the applicant’s petition and the decision to deny, revoke, or suspend the certification. The CDE or the designee shall render a written, reasoned decision that shall be the final administrative decision. The designee shall be impartial and unbiased and shall not have participated in the decision to deny, revoke, or suspend the NPA certification.
- Any public education agency that contracts with a certified NPA may request the CDE to review the status of the agency. The request shall be in writing and a copy sent to the NPA.
Guidelines For Site Relocation (California Education Code Section 56366.4[B])
Notification must be provided in writing to the CDE within 45 days of a program move. A new fire clearance, health clearance, building safety inspection, zoning clearance, business license, and a disaster and mass casualty plan of action must be submitted. Contact the Special Education Division by phone at 916-327-0141 or by e-mail at email@example.com to request the necessary forms.
Note: A relocating NPA is required to submit a NPA certification form with the applicable payment.
New Nonpublic Agency Applicants
After the Intent to Apply or Renew form has been processed, an e-mail will be sent to the NPA from firstname.lastname@example.org. This e-mail will provide the applicant with detailed instructions on how to access the CAIS online system to complete the New NPA Certification Application.
Renewing Nonpublic Agency Certification
NPA Certification Renewal Applications became available on CAIS beginning August 1. They may be submitted to the CDE anytime between August 1 and October 31. Applications received after October 31 will not be accepted.
Mailing Instructions for the Intent to Apply or Renew form and Check
Please send the completed Intent to Apply or Renew form with a check payable to the CDE to cover the certification fee to the following address:
California Department of Education
Special Education Division
Interagency-Nonpublic Schools/Agencies Unit,
1430 N Street, Suite 2401
Sacramento, CA 95814