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April 30, 2003

IDEA Reauthorization Clarifies Evaluations for Homeschoolers

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal program which provides grants to the states for the provision of services to children with disabilities. Its six year reauthorization passed when the House of Representatives approved on the Improving Education Results for Children with Disabilities Act (H.R. 1350) on April 30, 2003.

Included in the bill is language making it clear that under IDEA, the public schools do not have to evaluate a homeschool student whose parents do not desire services. This change in the law, worked out by Home School Legal Defense Association and the House of Representatives Education and Workforce Committee, will address the problems homeschoolers have experienced on this issue.

In order to receive the federal funds under IDEA, states must have in place procedures whereby children with disabilities are identified. Child Find, under current IDEA law, is wrongly interpreted to allow for the government, without the consent of the parents, to force an evaluation of a child even if the parents are not involved with the government schools at all and do not want IDEA services. In fact, HSLDA is currently in court with a Missouri family on this issue.

HSLDA has found that under Child Find, some schools believe that if they do not "find" a homeschool child that could be in need of services, they have violated IDEA. They therefore demand to evaluate the children, even where the parents desire nothing from the government. This interpretation of IDEA is unacceptable and unconstitutional. Fortunately, HSLDA has been able to work with the House of Representatives Education and Workforce Committee to address this situation.