About the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) 2004
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) is a law intended to improve educational outcomes for children and youth with disabilities. Originally adopted in 1975 as the Education for all Handicapped Children Act, IDEA affirms the right of students with disabilities to “a free appropriate public education” (FAPE) through special education and related services. Over the past 30 years, Congress has revised this law and passed the most recent version of IDEA in 2004.
IDEA provides billions of dollars in federal funding to assist states and local communities in providing educational opportunities and services to students with disabilities. Currently, IDEA enables the operation of programs serving approximately 269,000 infants and toddlers, 679,000 preschoolers, and 6,000,000 children aged 6 to 21.
IDEA contains several parts:
Part A provides the definitions and details of the Act including who is covered by the Act, and how states must implement the Act.
Part B of IDEA provides funding to states for special education and related services for preschool and school-aged children. This section also contains the rules that states and school systems must follow. There are rules governing many topics such as evaluating children to determine eligibility for special education and related services, notifying parents and involving them in their child’s education, writing individualized education programs (IEPs) for eligible children, determining educational placements, and implementing discipline provisions.
Part C provides funding for early intervention services for infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families. Services may include family training, home visits, speech services, and physical therapy.
Part D describes research and professional development activities designed to improve the education of children with disabilities.
Under IDEA, a child who is eligible for special education services receives an IEP (individual education program) developed by the child’s parents, teachers, and other school staff. The IEP outlines the child’s academic achievement and functional performance, describes how the school will include the child in the general education curriculum, establishes annual goals for the child, states the special education and related services the child needs, describes how the child will be appropriately assessed, and determines what accommodations may be appropriate for the child’s instruction.
IDEA requires schools to inform parents of their children’s rights and to allow them to participate in all decisions affecting their children. IDEA also outlines due process provisions, which allow parents to challenge school district decisions.
Learn more about IDEA on the U.S. Department of Education's IDEA website.