Certification should not be construed as an evaluation, accreditation, approval, recognition, or endorsement of any nonpublic school or course.
This document provides assistance and clarification in the development of the application for certification as a nonpublic, nonsectarian school (NPS). 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).
Limitations on Certification
The following entities are not eligible to be certified as an NPS:
- 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.
- A public hospital, state licensed children's hospital, psychiatric hospital, proprietary hospital, or a health facility for medical purposes located either within or outside of California.
- The NPS shall meet those standards as prescribed in federal and state statutes and regulations pertaining to special education. An NPS 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 NPS shall be maintained and continue 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 NPS 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 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 a 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 individualized education program (IEP). The IEP is a plan developed between the local public school district and the parent(s) or guardian(s), along with a participant from the NPS, to decide the types of services each student needs.
- An NPS that is located outside California is eligible for certification pursuant to EC 56366.1, only if a pupil is enrolled in a program operated by that school 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.
- "Special education" means: (a) specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parent or guardian, to meet the unique needs of individuals with exceptional needs whose educational needs cannot be met with modification of the regular instructional program; and (b) related services, at no cost to the parent or guardian, that may be needed to assist those individuals to benefit from specially designated instruction.
- Special education is an integral part of the total public education system and provides education in a manner that promotes maximum interaction between children or youths with disabilities and children or youths without disabilities in a manner that is appropriate to the needs of both.
- Special education provides a full continuum of program options to meet the educational and service needs of individuals with exceptional needs in the least restrictive environment.
Master Contract (California Education Code Section 56366)
Pursuant to EC 56366, the contracting local educational agency (LEA) and the NPS shall enter into a written agreement (master contract) to specify the general administrative and financial agreements in providing education and related services (including transportation) to special education students in accordance with the pupil’s IEP.
This written agreement also shall include procedures for record keeping and documentation and the maintenance of school records by the contracting LEA to ensure that the student receives appropriate high school graduation credits.
Certification Standards (California Education Code Section 56366 [d])
No master contract for special education and related services provided by an NPS shall be authorized under this part unless a school has been certified as meeting those standards relating to the required special education and specified related services and facilities for individuals with exceptional needs. The certification shall result in the school receiving approval to educate special needs students enrolled in California's public school system.
Attendance and Records
The administrative provisions of the master contract shall include procedures for record keeping and documentation and the maintenance of school records by the contracting LEA to ensure that the student receives appropriate high school graduation credits. The contract may allow for partial or full-time attendance at the NPS.
Questions relating to laws on attendance and student records should be addressed to the CDE, School Fiscal Services Division, 1430 N Street, Suite 3800, Sacramento, CA 95814, or by phone at 916-322-3024.
Individual Services Agreement (California Education Code Section 56366 [a][2A])
EC 56366 requires the contracting LEA and the NPS to have an individual services agreement (ISA) in place for each student receiving special education and related services. The ISA is similar to a prescription in that it specifies the type or duration of services to be provided by the NPS, as specified by the student’s IEP.
Instruction and Curriculum (California Education Code Section 56366.10)
An NPS should not accept a pupil with exceptional needs if it cannot provide or ensure the provision of services as outlined in the pupil's IEP. Education and related services must be in alignment with the student's IEP. As required by law, students shall receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE). Students with exceptional needs receiving services from an NPS must have access to the educational materials, services, and programs that are consistent with each student’s IEP. In this regard, and consistent with each student’s IEP, the nonpublic, nonsectarian school must:
- Provide pupils in kindergarten through eighth grade with state-adopted, standards-based core curriculum, and instructional materials. Provide pupils from ninth through twelfth grade with standards-based, core curriculum, and instructional materials used by any LEA that contracts with the NPS (California schools only).
- All pupils should have their own individual copy of textbooks and other instructional materials used to support the standards-based core curriculum in each subject taught for each grade level as required by the California Education Code.
- Provide access to college preparation courses.
- Provide extracurricular activities, such as art, sports, music, and academic clubs.
- As appropriate, provide career preparation and vocational training, consistent with transition plans pursuant to state and federal laws.
- As appropriate, provide supplemental assistance, including individual academic tutoring, psychological counseling, and career and college counseling.
Designated Instruction and Services
Designated instruction and services (DIS) or related services, as specified in the IEP, shall be available when the instruction and 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 5 CCR 3051.
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 she or he is providing special education or related services, or in the absence of such requirements, the state educational agency approved or recognized requirements; and (b) that she or he 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 NPSs that provide special education and designated instruction and 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.
Only those schools 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 a completed Department of Justice (DOJ) criminal history clearance before they can be employed by the NPS. 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 12125-12155)
School staff must show proof of the absence of Tuberculosis (TB). TB examination clearance forms are to be retained at the school 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).
Child Abuse Reporting
PC sections 11165.7, 11166, 11166.5, and 11167 require that private school personnel report any observed or suspected instances of child abuse by telephone within 24 hours and in writing to the appropriate public authorities within 36 hours.
All personnel are required to sign a statement acknowledging the reporting requirements in case of observed or suspected cases of child abuse. This statement must be maintained in the employee's personnel file.
Online Application for Certification (California Education Code Section 56366.1)
In reference to EC 56366.1, an NPS 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 special education and designated instruction and services provided to individuals with exceptional needs.
- A list of appropriately qualified staff; a description of the credential, license, degree, or registration that qualifies each staff member to render special education or designated instruction and services; and copies of their credentials, licenses, diplomas, 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 NPS.
- Affidavits and assurances necessary to comply with all applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations, including criminal record summaries, are required of all school 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 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
The CDE will make a determination on an application within 120 days of submission of the online application and will certify, conditionally certify, or deny certification to the applicant. If the CDE fails to take one of these actions within 120 days, the applicant is automatically granted conditional certification for a period terminating on August 31 of the current school year. If certification is denied, the CDE shall provide reasons for the denial.
The SSPI shall annually review the certification of each NPS. For this purpose, a certified school shall annually update its application between August 1 and October 31.
Validation Review–California Schools Only
A new applicant is subject to a validation review prior to the issuance of certification. The intention of the validation is to review the program's operational standards, instructional materials, and school facility. If the operational standards do not meet current requirements, certification may be denied or issued conditionally with corrective actions required.
If the applicant meets all application requirements, it will receive a three month conditional certification. During those three months, the NPS will be scheduled for an on-site review.
Conditional certification authorizes the new NPS to begin contracting with school districts to provide appropriate special education and related services for students.
As part of the certification process, the CDE shall conduct an on-site review of the facility and program for which the applicant seeks approval.
Advance preparation for the on-site review is encouraged. After the on-site review is scheduled, a confirmation letter and copy of the on-site review document will be sent to the school. It is suggested that the school conduct a self-evaluation prior to the on-site review and be prepared to respond to each item on the review document.
Private School Affidavit (California Education Code Section 33109)
While each NPS is required by law to file a Private School Affidavit with the Title II Leadership Office, a copy of the affidavit is no longer required as part of the NPS Renewal Application. For instructions on filing the affidavit, please contact the Title II Leadership Office by phone at 916-445-7331 or visit the Private School Affidavit Web page.
Notice to Initiate or Expand Services
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the SSPI may not certify an NPS that proposes to initiate or expand services to pupils currently educated in the immediate prior fiscal year in a juvenile court program, community school pursuant to EC 56150, or other non-special education program, including independent study or adult school, or both, unless the NPS notifies the county superintendent of schools and the SELPA, in which the proposed new or expanded NPS is located, of its intent to seek certification. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the certification becomes effective no earlier than July 1 of the following year.
The notification shall occur no later than the December 1 prior to the new fiscal year in which the proposed or expanding school intends to initiate services. The notice shall include the following:
- The specific date upon which the proposed NPS is to be established.
- The location of the proposed program or facility.
- The number of pupils proposed for services; the number of pupils currently served in the juvenile court, community school, or other non-special education program; the current school services, including special education and related services provided for these pupils; and the specific program of special education and related services to be provided under the proposed program.
- The reason for the proposed change in services.
- The number of staff who will provide special education and designated instruction and services and who hold a current valid California credential or license in the service rendered.
Causes for Suspension or Revocation of Certification (California Education Code Section 56366.4)
The CDE may suspend or revoke the certification of an NPS 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 NPS 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 educational 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 NPS; (b) major modification or relocation of facilities; and (c) significant modification of the NPS program.
- Failure to implement recommendations and compliance requirements following an on-site review of the school.
- 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 school, including the circumstances surrounding the death, and any appropriate preventive measures being taken or recommended.
The CDE is required to notify contracting LEAs and the SELPA in which the NPS 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 NPS receives the notice of denial, revocation, or suspension of certification, the NPS 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 NPS certification.
- Any public education agency that contracts with a certified NPS may request the CDE to review the status of the school. The request shall be in writing and a copy sent to the NPS.
Certification at All Sites (California Education Code Section 56366.1[c])
If an NPS operates a program at more than one site, each site shall be certified.
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 NPS will undergo a validation review at its new site in order to become certified as a NPS at that location. In addition to the NPS certification items to be submitted, a relocating NPS will be required to obtain a new fire clearance, health clearance, building safety inspection, zoning clearance, business license, and a disaster and mass casualty plan of action. Contact the Special Education Division by phone at 916-327-0141 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org to request the necessary forms.
Note: A relocating NPS is required to submit a NPS certification form with the applicable payment.
New Nonpublic, Nonsectarian School Certification
After the Intent to Apply or Renew form has been processed, an e-mail will be sent to the NPS from email@example.com. This e-mail will provide the applicant with detailed instructions on how to access the CAIS online system to complete the New NPS Certification Application.
Renewing Nonpublic, Nonsectarian School Certification
NPS Certification Renewal Applications became available on the 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.
Certification Fees (California Education Code Section 56366.1 [m])
Pursuant to EC 56366.1 (m), the school 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 NPSs shall pay the applicable certification fee when submitting the Intent to Apply or Renew form to the CDE. Please note, renewing NPSs must submit the certification fee no later than October 31.
The CDE shall use these fees to conduct on-site reviews. 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 school must be on the check or money order.
Mailing Instructions for 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