New Rules for Special Ed Students in Private Schools

Published May 1, 1999

Under new regulations for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997, it will be more difficult to provide services for special education students in private schools. The new law requires school districts to spend only federal special education dollars on services for students with disabilities in private schools. Since the federal share of special education spending is only about 7 percent of total spending, public schools will have access to much higher levels of funding for their special education students than will private schools.

Under the 1997 IDEA reauthorization, school districts that provide services to public school students with disabilities are not obligated to provide the same services to private school students with disabilities. A school district’s only obligation to private school students with disabilities is to provide them with services “equal to a proportionate amount” of the federal special education funds the district receives each year. While school districts and states are free to provide additional services using state and local funds, the new IDEA regulations make it clear that, under federal law, they are not required to do so.

“The proportionate expenditure requirement relates to disabled private school children in the aggregate,” said Joe McTighe, executive director of the Council for American Private Education, noting that the new regulations explicitly state that no individual private school child has a “right to receive some or all of the special education and related services that the child would receive if enrolled in a public school.”

Public school officials are required to consult with representatives of private school children with disabilities to determine which children will receive services, what services will be provided, how and where those services will be provided, and how the services will be evaluated.

The regulations, published on March 12, contain other provisions relating to children in private schools. McTighe urges private school officials to gain a thorough knowledge of the regulations in order to assist parents in securing all the services to which their children are entitled.

A complete copy of the regulations is available under “Education Department: Rules” at the Government Printing Office’s Web site at CAPE also has a PDF file of the section of IDEA regulations that relates to children with disabilities enrolled by their parents in private schools. To obtain this file, send the word “IDEA” in a one-word e-mail to [email protected].