Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law. It was created in 1990 when the Education for All Handicapped Children Act was modified and renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

The U.S. Department of Education is generally responsible for the enforcement of both of these acts, and is charged with the task of ensuring that the school systems in every state are held to the standards set by the laws. However, while IDEA provides general regulations and sets the framework for the rights of handicapped students, the government of each individual state and each individual school board and school district are ultimately responsible for compliance and enforcement.

The Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA), from which the IDEA was created, was first drafted into federal law to secure the rights of handicapped children to receive the same education as children who are not handicapped. The current federal regulations were put in place by the United States Department of Education, and the IDEA itself has been amended a number of times to stay current with the needs of handicapped children as they are discovered through research. 

IDEA works by providing funding to schools and organizations that follow guidelines to ensure equal educational opportunity for handicapped children. To receive this funding, the schools must comply with all mandates and requirements of IDEA.

The IDEA is also enforced in conjunction with the No Child Left Behind Act. This law is designed to ensure that all children who attend public school systems receive the highest standard of education possible, whether or not they are handicapped. Under these laws, every child, regardless of economic status or physical handicap, is entitled to receive a free education and preparation for higher education.