The idea behind ‘IDEA’

The purpose of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 2004 is to ensure that all children have available to them a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs, including preparation for college, employment, and independent living, until age 18 or 21.    

The first version of the law was enacted in 1975, and has been updated multiple times since.

IDEA applies to those States and their local educational agencies (CESA’s) that accept federal funding under the IDEA. While States declining such funding are not subject to the IDEA, all States have accepted funding under this statute and are subject to it. Wisconsin accepts IDEA funding.

As of 2006, more than 6 million children in the U.S. receive special education services through IDEA.


Having a disability does not automatically qualify a student for special education services under the IDEA. The disability must result in the student needing additional or unique services to participate in school. Students with disabilities who do not qualify for special education services under IDEA may qualify for accommodations or modifications under Section 504 and under the ADA. Their rights are protected by due process procedure requirements.

Here is where you can learn more about Individualized Education Plans (IEP’s).


Wisconsin Family Assistance Center for Education, Training & Support (WI FACETS) frequently and regularly offers no cost information sessions via web, phone or in person (in the Milwaukee area) about this topic. Take a look at their calendar for more information.

This information is being shared with permission from WI FACETS:

Below is a series of documents, prepared by the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) in the U.S. Department of Education that covers a variety of high-interest topics and brings together the regulatory requirements related to those topics to support constituents in preparing to implement the new regulations.