Children with disabilities often require educational supports to maximize their learning experience. Sometimes, these differences may increase the cost of education for students with disabilities, and this may cause parents to worry about funding their child’s education over the course of his or her lifetime. Luckily, there are resources available to help families of children with disabilities navigate important decisions regarding their child’s education.
Understanding the Legal Options for Financing Your Child’s Education
To make sure that students with disabilities are getting the support they need, the US government set the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in place. This act sets out to make sure that free and appropriate public education is available to students with disabilities. IDEA governs how educational services are provided to ensure that students with disabilities have an education tailored to their specific needs through special education programs in schools and other related services.
Through IDEA, each student receives an Individualized Education Program (IEP). An IEP is a personalized document that contains an assessment of a child’s current educational status, along with a summary of their annual progress goals and plans for transitions as they age. In addition, an IEP will include mention of any support, service, or accommodations needed for the student to excel in their educational setting. Once an IEP contract is drawn up, financial funding from the public school district will work to pay for the services needed. For more details about IEP and education costs for children with disabilities, visit this guide.
For students who do not qualify for an IEP under IDEA, but still require certain supports to assist them in getting the most out of their daily education, a 504 plan may be a viable option. Students with 504 plans are educated in the general classroom, but may receive additional support to help them work with any disability-related challenges that may impair their learning in the traditional classroom.
Choosing the Right School for Children with Disabilities
When deciding on a school for your child to attend, there are several things to keep in mind. Namely, it is important to know that not all schools are funded in the same way. This means that while some schools may allot a certain amount of money to developing a program for students who may need extra supports, other schools may not. It is important to find a school that has a program suited to your child’s needs, so that the out-of-pocket costs for your child’s education can be minimized without jeopardizing the benefits of education. While funds are dispersed variably depending on individuals schools and districts, there are general guidelines that govern the way money is spent on special education in public, private, and charter schools:
- Public Schools: Publicly-funded schools are required to offer special education classes for those who need it. This requirement is protected by IDEA to ensure that students who may need extra support receive an appropriate public education. Due to this, public schools must honor the requirements of each student’s IEP or 504 plan.
- Private Schools: Private schools are not required to follow the guidelines set in place by the IDEA. This means that they are not under any obligation to offer special education classes to their student body. While some private schools may offer educational supports, others may not.
- Charter Schools: Because charter schools can be either publicly or privately funded, there are several types of schools encompassed within the category. Publicly-funded charter schools are required to follow IDEA and the requirements of 504 plans, and therefore must offer educational support as public schools do. Those charter schools that are privately funded operate similarly to private schools where this matter is concerned. To learn more about the way that different charter schools administer special education policy, read this helpful article.
Some families decide to homeschool their children, and this is certainly an option for families of children with disabilities. This option may ease the stress of deciding on a school with the appropriate support for you child, and may provide a tailored education option that advances at the pace your child requires. While there are many pros associated with homeschooling, there are also several limitations to keep in mind. For example, you may pass up the opportunity to access valuable resources through an in-school education that could be beneficial to your child’s education. Additionally, there are often mandated requirements set in place for families who decide to homeschool their children – it may be advantageous to research your local government laws about homeschooling when considering this option. For more information about homeschooling your child with a disability, visit this page.
If you would like to learn more about choosing the right school for your child, you may find this page helpful.
What Can I Do If My Child’s Educational Needs Are Not Being Met?
Under IDEA, publicly funded schools should provide an appropriate amount of educational support for children with disabilities. However, due to issues like overcrowding or staff inexperience, this is not always the case. If your child is not receiving an appropriate level of educational support through his or her public school, there are many courses of action you can take. You may consider:
- Speaking with your child’s teacher or the school’s special education coordinator.
- Calling a formal IEP meeting with your child’s teachers and other administrative staff to determine how to better provide supports.
- Seeking educational support outside the school. If your child’s educational needs are not being met, you have a right to seek appropriate educational supports elsewhere if the school is not providing them. In some cases, school districts can be held accountable for the costs of these services.
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