The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that governs how states provide special education to children with disabilities. IDEA was originally enacted by Congress in 1975 as the Education for Handicapped Children Act, and the most recent changes to the law were passed by Congress in 2015 as part of the Every Student Succeeds Act.
The Act requires that public schools create an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for each student who is eligible under federal and state disability standards. An IEP must be designed to meet each child’s unique educational needs in the Least Restrictive Environment possible.
Children and youth (ages 3-21) receive special education and related services under IDEA Part B. Infants and toddlers up to 2-years-old with disabilities and their families receive early intervention services under IDEA Part C. The IDEA also authorizes formula grants to states and discretionary grants to various entities. While Congress initially committed to funding 40 percent of the costs of implementing IDEA, the federal government funded just 14.7 percent as of 2019.