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MAY / JUNE 2002
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Special education services for home schoolers

Introduced by Representative Lynn Westmoreland, House Bill 1590 would add a provision to state law that would entitle home school students to receive the same special education services now provided to private school students. The bill text is as follows:

For the purposes of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C.A. Section 1400, et seq., students enrolled in home study programs meeting the requirements of Code Section 20-2-690 shall be deemed to be private school students and shall be provided with the same special education and related services as students enrolled in private schools.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) amendments of 1997 explicitly provide that the local school district must attempt to locate, identify, and evaluate all children residing in its district who are suspected of having disabilities. The school district's obligation, however, is merely to make evaluations available. If a parent does not consent to the evaluation, then there is no legal obligation to submit his child to the school district's testing. As with public school children, following the initial evaluation, an eligibility determination must be made by a group of qualified professionals and the child's parents, and this group must determine whether the child is a "child with a disability" as defined in IDEA. If a determination is made that the child needs special education and related service, the general rule is that an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) must be developed for the child. Of course, if the parents make clear their intention to educate their child at home and that they are not interested in a public school program, the school district need not develop an IEP for the child. The 1997 amendments to IDEA make clear that a school district is obligated only to spend federal dollars in providing services to private school students. A state may expend its own funds, but it is not obligated to do so. The eligible private school students receive what is called a "proportionate share" of the federal funding. The proportionate share is the percentage of eligible private school students among the school district's total population of eligible students.

Home School Legal Defense Association supports this legislation and urges home school families to contact their state legislators to express their support. This bill passed the House of Representatives on March 26, 2002, and at press time was being considered by the Senate.

- Dewitt T. Black