A major issue for many home schoolers in Texas is the change made in 2001 by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) in regard to public school obligations to special needs children in private schools. According to this rule change, public schools in Texas will no longer be required to offer dual enrollment for children with special needs. However, many public school officials are telling parents that it will no longer be possible for special needs children to home school and take advantage of classes and services at public schools.
In response to a request for clarification from THSC, then Commissioner of Education Nelson said in a letter, “Public schools may still choose to provide special education services to private school students on a part-time basis if they wish, but they will no longer be required to do so.”
He went on to explain, “The reason for the rule change is that the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 1997 and the federal regulations issued in 1999 significantly changed the obligations of public schools with respect to students enrolled in private schools by their parents. Specifically, the regulations promulgated under IDEA, prior to its reauthorization in 1997, provided that public schools were required to ‘provide special education and related services designed to meet the needs of private school children with disabilities residing in [its] jurisdiction.’ By comparison, the regulations promulgated under the reauthorized IDEA specifically state that ‘No private school child with a disability has an individual right to receive some or all of the special education and related services that the child would receive if enrolled in a public school.’”
The commissioner proceeded to explain what public schools must do now in relation to private school children with special education needs. “In place of the individual entitlement to services, IDEA now requires public schools to provide for the participation of private school children with disabilities in special education programs by spending a portion of their IDEA funds to provide for such participation. The types of services provided, and the manner in which they are provided, are to be determined by the local school district based on consultations with appropriate representatives of private school children with disabilities.
To summarize, the TEA and the federal government no longer require dual enrollment for children with disabilities. The important point, however, is that public schools still must spend a portion of the federal funds for private school students. How that is done will be determined by consulting with “appropriate” representatives of private school children with disabilities. Home school parents who have children with disabilities and have been taking part in these services from public schools should tell their school officials that they want to be part of the team consulting with the district on how to meet the needs of private school children with disabilities.