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U.S. Department of Education Strengthens Guidance to Improve Equal Educational Opportunity for Children with Disabilities

July 25, 2023
Source: U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP)

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) today released updated policy guidance, which takes immediate effect, to ensure and strengthen the rights and protections guaranteed to children with disabilities and their families under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

The guidance and accompanying Dear Colleague Letter address the IDEA’s “general supervision” requirement, which necessitates states monitor local educational agencies (LEAs) as required by IDEA Part B, and early intervention service (EIS) programs and providers as required by IDEA Part C to ensure children with disabilities and their families access their rights under IDEA.

“As a former special education teacher, administrator, and state special education director, I’ve experienced implementation of IDEA’s general supervision requirements at the state and local level and recognize the need to fortify the policy guidance,” said Glenna Wright-Gallo, Assistant Secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation (OSERS), under which OSEP sits. “We must continue to Raise the Bar for all children. One vital component of this effort is to ensure children with disabilities, birth through age 21, receive the early intervention services and a free appropriate public education (FAPE) that meets their unique needs and prepares them for further education, employment, and independent living.”

OSEP’s updated guidance will:

  • Provide states with accessible and actionable information necessary to timely identify and correct noncompliance;
  • Help ensure the rights guaranteed under the IDEA to children with disabilities and their families are protected; and
  • Reaffirm expectations across states to help ensure consistent implementation of IDEA.

“While the federal government provides grants to states under IDEA, it is the state’s responsibility to educate students with disabilities in accordance with the law. This guidance underscores each state’s general supervision responsibility to meet the purpose of IDEA and ensure that all school-age children, regardless of the nature or severity of their disability, can access FAPE in the least restrictive environment and that infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families receive appropriate early intervention services to the maximum extent appropriate,” said OSEP Director Valerie C. Williams.

Through various OSEP monitoring activities and information received in the State Performance Plan/Annual Performance Report (SPP/APR) submissions, OSEP has observed the need for updated guidance to ensure states have the information needed to build robust general supervision systems. Such systems should ensure statewide accountability that swiftly identifies and corrects noncompliance, increases accountability through the collection of timely and accurate data, and ensures the full implementation of IDEA to improve functional outcomes, and early intervention and educational results for children with disabilities.

Additionally, OSEP received requests to clarify for all state education administrators the roles and responsibilities needed to satisfy the IDEA’s general supervision requirements. OSEP is further clarifying or expanding positions in the following areas:

  • A state must not ignore credible allegations of noncompliance made outside its formal monitoring visit cycle;
  • States must monitor each LEA or EIS program at least once within the six-year cycle of the state’s SPP/APR;
  • States must issue a timely finding of noncompliance, generally within three months of the state’s identification of the noncompliance; and
  • States, LEAs, and EIS programs or providers must verify the correction of each individual case of child specific identified noncompliance, rather than a subset.

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