Individuals With Disabilities Education Act 2004 (IDEA)

IDEA Provides Special Education Services for Students in Private and Religious Schools


The 2004 authorized version of IDEA (Individuals With Disabilities Education Act) retains the basic premise of earlier versions:

  • FAPE (the entitlement to a free and appropriate public education) does not apply to children who are parentally placed in private schools
  • Children parentally placed in private schools are served with a proportionate share of the federal dollars generated under the provisions of IDEA
  • There are some important provisions that are incorporated into the new law that should help students with disabilities who are in private schools obtain more equitable treatment than in the past. Some of these changes include:

Local Education Agency (LEA/public school district) Responsibilities

  • LEA must administer and retain control of the funds and equipment used to provide IDEA services to children placed in private schools
  • The LEA is obligated to locate, identify and evaluate all children suspected of having a disability who attend private schools located in the district.
  • The timeline for the child find process (evaluation) must be a comparable time period as for public school children
  • The process the LEA conducts for private schools students must be thorough and complete
  • Costs for child find for private school children is separate from the proportionate share of funds set aside to serve private school children; child find funds are part of the LEA’s administrative costs.
  • Activities for child find must be similar to those for public school children

Provision of Equitable Services

  • On-site services allowed, including at religious schools, to the extent consistent with law
  • Preference is for direct services to students rather than professional development activities for their teachers
  • Services may be provided directly by LEA employees or through contracts with third   party providers
  • Must be secular, neutral, non-ideological (including materials and equipment)

Child Find

  • the obligation of the LEA is to serve students is based on their attendance area
  • the local public school district in which the private school is located is responsible for identifying, counting and serving the students
  • the activities used to identify private school children with disabilities should be the same as those undertaken for the public school children and in the same time period
  • the cost of carrying out child find activities cannot be paid for from the proportionate share of funds; it is an administrative responsibility under the LEA’s administrative funding

Consultation Requirements

The LEA must consult with the private school representatives and a representative of the parents during the design and development of the program and services to be offered.  Such consultation shall occur before the LEA makes any decisions that affect the opportunities of eligible private school children, teachers, and other educational personnel to participate.  Consultation must include:

  • How the children's needs will be identified
  • How children can participate equitably in the program
  • What services will be offered
  • How and where the services will be provided
  • How the services will be assessed and how the results of the assessment will be used to improve those services
  • Service delivery mechanisms used to provide equitable services
  • Who will provide the services
  • The amount of funds available to serve private school students
  • How the proportionate share of the funding dollars has been determined
  • The size and scope of the services to be provided
  • How and when the LEA will make decisions about the delivery of services
  • Consideration of the views of the private school officials re: use of third-party provider
  • If direct services or the use of a third party contractor to serve children are requested by the private schools officials but are denied, a written explanation from the LEA is required
  • How parents/school will be informed about serving the student

The LEA is required to obtain a written affirmation from the private school officials that required consultation has occurred.

Complaint Provisions

  • A private school official shall have the right to submit a complaint to the State educational agency that the local educational agency did not engage in consultation that was meaningful and timely, or did not give due consideration to the views of the private school official.
  • If the private school official is dissatisfied with the decision of the State educational agency, such official may submit a complaint to the U.S. Secretary of Education.

Helpful Resources

Click HERE to read the full text of the provisions of the new IDEA law pertaining specifically to children parentally placed in private schools.
Click HERE to obtain the full text of the regulations published in the Code of Federal Regulations (34 CFR Parts 300 and 301). The regs are quite lengthy; the section referring specifically to children in private schools is found on pages 46766-46776.
Click HERE to read the revised Q&As intended to provide guidance regarding the IDEA requirements for private school students.