Title I in Private Schools: A Time Line

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Congress passes Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which includes Title I remedial program for disadvantaged students. Lobbying by Roman Catholic groups ensures that children in nonpublic schools, including religious schools, are eligible for benefits.


Six plaintiffs sue New York City school board over its Title I program in religious schools.


U.S. Supreme Court rules 5-4 in Aguilar v. Felton that it is a violation of the U.S. Constitution's prohibition against government establishment of religion for public school teachers to provide Title I services on the premises of religious schools.

In August 1985, then-U.S. Secretary of Education William J. Bennett issues guidance that says costs of alternative delivery systems will be deducted "off the top'' of a state or district's entire Title I allocation.

Early 1990s

Federal courts across the nation rule on lawsuits challenging off-the-top funding rule and alternative delivery programs. Courts generally approve off-the-top rule and most alternative means of providing Title I classes, such as parking mobile classrooms near religious schools.


In a case about the constitutionality of a public school district established to serve special education students in a Hasidic Jewish village in New York, five Supreme Court justices state that the ruling in Felton should be overturned or at least re-examined. "The court should, in a proper case, be prepared to reconsider [Felton],'' Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said.


Citing high costs of alternative delivery methods, New York City board of education votes to ask its lawyers to seek relief from or the reversal of the Felton decision. Later that year, U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley joins the call for a reversal.


A federal judge denies the New York City district's request for relief from Felton but rules that the district is on solid procedural ground in appealing the denial to the Supreme Court. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit agrees, allowing the appeal to go forward. In October, the Clinton administration backs the school district's appeal in the Supreme Court.


In January, the Supreme Court agrees to reconsider Felton, although it asks lawyers on both sides to also address the question of whether it is proper to use the same case to overturn one of its precedents. The court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case, now called Agostini v. Felton, on April 15.

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