Reauthorizing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), originally enacted in 1975, requires that every student with a disability has access to a free, appropriate public education.

IDEA was last reauthorized in 2004. As this legislation was being developed, NSBA successfully promoted significant changes that shifted program emphasis from complying with legal requirements to improving education outcomes and accountability for all students.

Although federal legislation initially promised to provide 40 percent of the excess cost to educate students with disabilities, the appropriations have fallen short, leaving states and local school districts to make up the difference.

Key issues for local school boards to consider include:

  • Parental revocation of consent for special education services
  • Representation by non-attorneys
  • Due process
  • Teacher quality and effectiveness
  • Discipline

Talking Points

Use these points to communicate the key issues supporting IDEA reauthorization and appropriations to other school board members, the press, and your members of Congress:

Local school districts will be forced to redirect more money from their general education budgets to cover the federal shortfall for special education.Full implementation of needed support such as professional development, curriculum development, course materials, and instructional changes needed to meet new standards and assessments, will be deferred.Currently, a deficit exists for special education funding. The average federal support per student under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has dropped to approximately 16 percent.Although costs for special education services continue to increase, many districts have extremely limited flexibility to generate the funding to meet them.

NSBA’s Position

NSBA takes a strategic approach to special education legislation, emphasizing improved outcomes for students with disabilities.


NSBA explains current and proposed legislation on special education for students with disabilities: IDEA reauthorization.

NSBA’s Actions

NSBA supports federal funding for IDEA and special education: letters to Congress and federal agencies, comments, and grassroots calls to action.