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The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act


What is IDEA?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a law (Public Law 108–446), or statute, authorizing:

1. Formula grants to states.
2. Discretionary grants to state educational agencies, institutions of higher education, and other nonprofit organizations.


Receipt of IDEA grant funds requires a series of conditions are met. These conditions are intended to ensure certain educational and procedural guarantees for students with disabilities and their families.


There are three main purposes of IDEA:

  1. To ensure all students with disabilities have access to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) that includes special education and related services designed to meet the unique need of each qualifying student.

  2. To protect the rights of children with disabilities and their parents.

  3. To provide assistance to states. localities, educational services agencies and federal agencies responsible for providing education to children with disabilities.


IDEA is a four-part statute. The four parts are as follows:

PART A: General Supervision 
Includes findings, purposes, and definitions

PART B: Assistance for Education of all Children with Disabilities
Addresses the requirements related to the education of school-aged children and preschool children with disabilities 

PART C: Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities
Authorizes state grants for programs serving infants and toddlers with disabilities

PART D: National Activities to Improve Education of Children with Disabilities

Outlines the requirements for various national activities (e.g. national technical assistance centers)

IDEA describes how states and public agencies must provide early intervention, special education, and related services to infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities.

There are six main elements throughout IDEA:

1. Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)

2. Appropriate Evaluation

3. Individualized Education Program (IEP)

4. Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)

5. Parent Participation

6. Procedural Safeguards

The IDEA statute authorizes funding to support the implementation of IDEA in states. There are two types of grants available to states under IDEA; formula grants and discretionary grants.

Formula Grants are provided to states to support the implementation of IDEA.

Discretionary Grants are provided to state education agencies and other entities state educational agencies, (e.g. nonprofit organizations, institutes of higher education) to support research, demonstrations, technical assistance and dissemination, technology development, personnel preparation and development, and parent training and information centers.

Click here to read Public Law 108–446

The U.S. Department of Education issues regulations to implement the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requirements.

Click here to read the subsections of IDEA Part B (Part 300) Regulations. 

Who monitors IDEA?

The U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) administers IDEA which authorizes formula grants to states under Part B, grants to lead agencies for the infants and families program under Part C, and discretionary grants under Part D to institutions of higher education and other non-profit organizations to support grants for state personnel development, technical assistance and dissemination, technology, personnel development, and parent-training and information centers.

Click here to read more about OSEP, click here.

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