The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): Selected Judicial Developments Following the 2004 Reauthorization Page: 4 of 28
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IDEA: Selected Judicial Developments Following the 2004 Reauthorization
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)' is the major federal statute for the
education of children with disabilities. IDEA both authorizes federal funding2 for special
education and related services3 and, for states that accept these funds,4 sets out principles under
which special education and related services are to be provided. The requirements are detailed,
especially when the regulatory interpretations are considered. The major principles include the
" States and school districts make available a free appropriate public education
(FAPE)5 to all children with disabilities, generally between the ages of 3 and 21.
States and school districts identify, locate, and evaluate all children with
disabilities, regardless of the severity of their disability, to determine which
children are eligible for special education and related services.
" Each child receiving services has an individual education program (IEP) spelling
out the specific special education and related services to be provided to meet his
or her needs. The parent must be a partner in planning and overseeing the child's
special education and related services as a member of the IEP team. "To the
maximum extent appropriate," children with disabilities must be educated with
children who are not disabled; and states and school districts provide procedural
safeguards to children with disabilities and their parents, including a right to a
due process hearing, the right to appeal to federal district court, and, in some
cases, the right to receive attorneys' fees.
IDEA was originally enacted in 1975 in response to judicial decisions holding that when states
provide an education for children without disabilities, they must also provide an education for
children with disabilities.6 IDEA has been the subject of numerous reauthorizations; the most
1 20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq. For a more detailed discussion of IDEA see CRS Report RS22590, The Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): Overview and Selected Issues, by Richard N. Apling and Nancy Lee Jones.
2 Although funding issues are beyond the scope of this report, it should be noted that the Ninth Circuit, in Arizona State
Board for Charter Schools v. U.S. Department of Education, 464 F.3d 1003 (9t Cir. 2006), examined whether a for-
profit charter school was eligible for federal funds under IDEA and held that a "a natural reading of the [statutory] text
conveys clear congressional intent that all schools, including charter schools, must be non profit to receive IDEA and
ESEA funds." For a discussion of this case and the use of IDEA funds for charter schools see Mark D. Evans, "An End
to Funding of For-Profit Charter Schools?" 70 U. Colorado L. Rev. 617 (2008). For a discussion of IDEA funding
generally see CRS Report RL32085, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): Current Funding Trends, by
3 Related services (for example, physical therapy) assist children with disabilities to help them benefit from special
education (20 U.S.C. 1401(26), P.L. 108-446 602(26)).
4 Currently, all states receive IDEA funding.
5 It should be emphasized that what is required under IDEA is the provision of a free appropriate public education. The
Supreme Court, in Board of Education of the Hendrick Hudson Central School District v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 176
(1982), held that this requirement is satisfied when the state provides personalized instruction with sufficient support
services to permit a child to benefit educationally from that instruction, and that this instruction should be reasonably
calculated to enable the child to advance from grade to grade. IDEA does not require that a state maximize the potential
of children with disabilities.
6 PARC v. State of Pennsylvania, 343 F.Supp. 279 (E.D. Pa. 1972); Mills v. Board of Education of the District of
Columbia, 348 F.Supp. 866 (D.D.C. 1972).
Congressional Research Service
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The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): Selected Judicial Developments Following the 2004 Reauthorization, report, August 13, 2009; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc805131/m1/4/: accessed October 20, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.