The IDEA (special education law) is a funding law. States receive federal funds for special education each fiscal year as long as the state can prove to the Secretary of the US Department of Education that the State has in effect policies and procedures to provide FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education) to all children with disabilities who meet the criteria set forth in the IDEA. The state’s policies and procedures may not be more restrictive than the federal law, IDEA.
A Free appropriate public education must be available to all children residing in the State between the ages of 3 and 21.
As each state is obliged to make FAPE available to each eligible child residing in the State, an IEP or IFSP (Individucal Family Service Plan) must be in effect for the child by the date of his/her third birthday. IEPs are created with the child’s school district, while an IFSP is provided by birth to three (in CT).
A child’s eligibility for special ed and related services is determined on an individual basis by a team specifically put together by the Local Education Agency (LEA) qualified to determine eligibility for such services.
Each State must ensure that FAPE is available to any individual child with a disability who needs special education and related services, even though the child has not failed or stayed-back in a course or grade and is advancing from grade to grade.
It is not true that the child must be failing out of school or classes in order to qualify for special education services.
When a school district violates a special education law, it is putting its qualification to receive federal funding at risk. Each state is given ample opportunity to make good on a finding of neglect or non-compliance; however.
Unfortunately, it generally works in the district’s favor to push noncompliance as far as it can go, in order to avoid having to pay large amounts to give some disabled children services. If they get caught, they can back-peddle, usually with not much more than a slap on the wrist. Too often, they don’t get caught due to parent’s ignorance of the law.
This is the unfortunate truth. But one we must deal with. And we can deal with it effectively if we educate ourselves.