Eliminating School Meal Applications
CEP eliminates the need to collect school meal applications to determine student’s eligibility for free or reduced-price school breakfast and lunch. While this reduction in paperwork is a clear benefit, New York State still requires CEP schools to collect alternative forms – also referred to as CEP Household Income Eligibility Form and/or Income Survey – for other purposes, such as state education funding and foundation aid.
Federal agencies have provided guidance for community eligibility schools to access federal educational funding sources that traditionally relied on free and reduced-price school meal information, such as Title 1 or E-Rate.
- US Department of Education Title I Guidance for Community Eligibility Schools
Schools that adopt CEP do not risk losing Title 1 Funding. This detailed guide provides instructions on how to ensure an equitable distribution of Title 1 among districts with community eligibility schools and non-community eligibility schools.
- Federal Communications Commission E-Rate Guidance for Community Eligibility Schools
This guidance provides clarity about how community eligibility schools are able to use their identified student percentages multiplied by 1.6 to determine funding for communications through E-Rate.
New York State Requirements & Best Practices
New York State Department of Education (NYSED) requires CEP Schools to collect annual income forms each school year since income data is used as a proxy for other education purposes. CEP schools provide students who are not directly certified for free school meals with a CEP Household Income Eligibility Form and/or Income Survey (provided to school districts by the NYSED). Some examples of what this household income information is used for in New York State include:
- State Aid
- Foundation Aid
- Local Funding
- SAT registration waivers
- Band instrument fee waivers
Schools that newly implement CEP have been successful in continuing to collect the household income forms. Best practice for ensuring families are filling out and returning alternative income forms is to clearly communicate to parents and families:
- Why the school needs to continue to collect this information
- How household income information is used in a CEP school
- The benefits of CEP – specifically why providing school breakfast and lunch to all student at no charge is important.
Additional resources from the Food Research and Action Center to learn more about successful strategies for collecting alternative income forms in CEP schools:
- Community Eligibility Webinar: Strategies for Collecting Alternative Income Forms at Community Eligibility Schools (April 16, 2018) (passcode – 94YeVe3j) – resources
- CEP: Best Practices for Alternative Income Form Collection conference call (May 5, 2017) – audio mp3, notes (pdf)