Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA)

IDEA ensures that all children with disabilities are entitled to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to meet their unique needs. The law requires public schools to provide special education and related services to children from ages 3–21 who meet certain eligibility criteria, and to provide early intervention services to eligible children ages birth to age 3. Key principles in the law include:

  • Every child no matter the nature or severity of the disability is entitled to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE).
  • Students with disabilities must be educated with children without disabilities in the design and implementation of special education services (parent participation).
  • When a disability is suspected, students are entitled to an evalutaion in all areas related to the suspected disability and use of evaluation procedures that are nondiscriminatory.
  • An individualized education program (IEP) must be developed and implemented to meet the unique needs of each student with a disability.
  • IDEA establishes procedural safeguards to protect the rights of parents and children with disabilities and also provide several mechanisms to resolve disputes between parents and school districts.

IDEA has four main sections. Part A covers the definitions and general provisions of the law. Part B covers the educational guidelines for children ages 3–21, while Part C covers infants and toddlers (ages 0–2). Part D covers national activities to improve the education of children with disabilities such as funding for research and dissemination of public information.

Related Resources

Deciphering the Federal Regulations on Identifying Children with Specific Learning Disabilities
This CQ article gives a summary of the 2004 IDEA regulatory changes to SLD identification.

Seclusion and Restraint: Updates and Opportunities
CQ article examining disproportionate representation in special education, disciplinary practices, and the school-to-prison pipeline.