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New or Renewal NPA Application

General information for completing the nonpublic agency (NPA) application documents for certification or recertification.

Certification Eligibility

A nonpublic, nonsectarian agency (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. (California Education Code Section 56035)

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 an 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).

General Information

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. An NPA shall not claim and is not entitled to receive reimbursement for attendance unless:
    1. 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
    2. 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).
  4. 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.
  5. An NPA that is located outside of 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.
  6. “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.
  7. 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 EC 56366.1(n) and Title 5 CCR 3051.

Certification Standards

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. (California Education Code Section 56366 [d])

Certification Fees

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:

Program capacity*

  • 1–5 pupils $525
  • 6–10 pupils $880
  • 11–24 pupils $1,760
  • 25–75 pupils $2,645
  • Over 75 pupils $3,525

*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. (California Education Code Section 56366.1 [m])

New applicants shall mail the applicable certification fee along with the Intent to Apply for Nonpublic, Nonsectarian Agency Certification form.

Renewal applicants shall mail the applicable certification fee along with the Intent to Renew for Nonpublic, Nonsectarian Agency Certification form. Please note, renewing NPAs must submit the certification fee no later than October 31.

When submitting the California Certification Application for Nonpublic, Nonsectarian Agency, certification fee, the fee must be 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

There shall be a signed, current master contract 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. (California Education Code Section 56366)

Individual Services Agreement

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 should specify the type or duration of services to be provided by the NPA, as specified in the student’s IEP. (California Education Code Section 56366 [a][2A])

Staff Qualifications/Requirements

“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 External link opens in new window or tab. or for other licensure information, refer to the California Department of Consumer Affairs Web site External link opens in new window or tab..

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. (20 United States Code Section 7807 [23], California Education Code Section 56366.1 [n][1]; 5 California Code of Regulations Section 3051)

Staff Fingerprint Clearance Requirements

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 External link opens in new window or tab.. (California Education Code Section 44237)

Tuberculosis Requirements

All 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). (California Health and Safety Code sections 121525-121555)

Certification for All Sites

If an NPA operates a program at more than one site, each site shall be certified. (California Education Code Section 56366.1[c])

Application for Certification

In reference to EC 56366.1, an NPA that seeks new or renewed certification shall complete an application that includes the following information:

  1. A description of the related services provided to individuals with exceptional needs.
  2. 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.
  3. An annual operating budget for the NPA.
  4. 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. 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. (California Education Code Section 56366.1)

Application Review Process (for New Nonpublic Agencies Only)

The CDE will make a determination on a new application within 120 days of receipt of the new 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 new 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 NPA. For this purpose, a certified agency shall annually submit a renewal NPA application August 1 and October 31.

Causes for Suspension or Revocation of Certification

The CDE may suspend or revoke the certification of an NPA for any of the following reasons:

  1. 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.
  2. Falsification or intentional misrepresentation of any element of the application, pupil records, or program presented for certification purposes.
  3. Conduct in the operation or maintenance of the NPA that is harmful to the health, welfare, or safety of an individual with exceptional needs.
  4. Failure to comply with any provision in the contract with the local education entity.
  5. 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.
  6. Failure to implement recommendations and compliance requirements following an on-site review of the agency.
  7. Failure to provide appropriate services, supplies, equipment, or facilities for a pupil as required in the pupil’s IEP.
  8. 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.
  9. Failure to implement a pupil’s IEP.
  10. 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. (California Education Code Section 56366.4)

Request for Review of Notice of Denial, Revocation, or Suspension of Certification

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. (California Education Code Section 56366.6)

Guidelines For Site Relocation

Notification must be provided in writing to the CDE within 45 days of a program move. If applicable, a new fire clearance and business license must be submitted. Contact the Interagency-Nonpublic Schools/Agencies Unit by phone at 916-327-0141 or by e-mail at to request the necessary forms.

Note: A relocating NPA is required to submit a new NPA certification application with the applicable payment. (California Education Code Section 56366.4[5][B])

New Nonpublic Agency Applicants

Applications can be submitted anytime throughout the year. Please email the Nonpublic Agencies Unit at or call 916-327-0141, to request the Intent to Apply for Nonpublic, Nonsectarian Agency Certification form.

Renewing Nonpublic Agency Certification

NPA Certification Renewal Applications becomes available 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 California Certification Application for Nonpublic, Nonsectarian Agency and Check

Please send the completed Intent to Apply for Nonpublic, Nonsectarian Agency Certification form with a check payable to the CDE to cover the certification fee to the following address:

California Department of Education
Special Education Division
Nonpublic Agencies Unit
1430 N Street, Suite 2401
Sacramento, CA 95814

Questions:   Nonpublic Schools and Agencies | | 916-327-0141
Last Reviewed: Tuesday, August 1, 2023
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