The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that requires each state to ensure that a free appropriate public education (FAPE) is available to all eligible children with disabilities residing in that state. The information in this booklet explains the provisions related to, and benefits available to, children with disabilities who are enrolled by their parents in private schools, including religious schools, when the provision of FAPE is not at issue. In IDEA, these children are often referred to as "parentally placed private school children" with disabilities, and the benefits available to them differ from the benefits for children with disabilities in public schools.
IDEA is designed to improve educational results for all children with disabilities. Therefore, it provides benefits and services to children with disabilities in public schools and requires school districts to make services and benefits available to children with disabilities enrolled by their parents in nonpublic (private) schools. The law includes language requiring state education agencies (SEAs) and local education agencies (LEAs) to ensure the equitable participation of parentally placed children with disabilities in programs assisted by or carried out under the equitable participation requirements that apply to them.
The LEA's obligations to parentally placed private school children with disabilities are different from its responsibilities to those enrolled in public schools or to children with disabilities placed in a private school by a public agency (rather than by parents) as a means of providing FAPE. Parentally placed children with disabilities do not have an individual entitlement to services they would receive if they were enrolled in a public school. Instead, the LEA is required to spend a proportionate amount of IDEA federal funds to provide equitable services to this group of children. Therefore, it is possible that some parentally placed children with disabilities will not receive any services while others will. For those who receive services, the amount and type of services also may differ from the services the child would receive if placed in a public school by the parents or in a private school by a public agency. LEAs are required to consult with private school representatives and representatives of parents of parentally placed children with disabilities during the design and development of special education and related services for these children.
In August 2006, the U.S. Department of Education released new regulations for Part B of IDEA, which went into effect Oct. 13, 2006. These regulations are designed to assist SEAs, LEAs, private school representatives, and representatives of parents of parentally placed private school children with disabilities in understanding the requirements of IDEA. These groups must work together with parents so that the children can receive the benefits available to them under IDEA.