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Accredited Non-Public/Private School Information

Children with disabilities enrolled in private schools are entitled to the same free, appropriate public education (FAPE) that public school children with disabilities would receive. Area Education Agencies (AEAs) are responsible to identify eligible individuals who are enrolled in nonpublic schools. Additionally, eligible students who are enrolled in a nonpublic school may receive special education or related services from a public agency (AEA or LEA).  With a few exceptions, AEAs and LEAs select the location where FAPE is provided.


Placement of Children by Parents in Nonpublic Schools

For eligible individuals placed in nonpublic schools by their parent(s), the AEA and local district must:

  • Make a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) available;
  • Offer to develop an IEP; and
  • Develop an IEP (if one is requested).

The AEA/LEA must invite representatives of the nonpublic school to IEP meetings for the student, including offering alternative means of participation in the IEP meeting.

Note: A parent who has unilaterally enrolled their child with a disability in a private school may not reject an IEP and demand a service plan instead.

If an eligible student has FAPE available and the parents choose to place the student in a nonpublic school or facility, the AEA or district is not required to pay for the student’s education at the nonpublic school or facility.

Disagreements between a parent and the AEA or district regarding the availability of a program appropriate for an eligible student and the question of financial responsibility are subject to dispute resolution and due process procedures.

For additional information on Unilateral Placement by Parents, click here.

Referrals and Placement to Private Schools by an AEA or LEA

An AEA/LEA may place or refer students with disabilities to a private school or facility as a means of providing special education and related services. The district hosting a private school or facility has the responsibility to supervise the facility (e.g., assure appropriate teacher licensure, etc.) and the responsibility for the IEP remains with the sending district.

Before the AEA/LEA, typically the resident district places an eligible student in, or refers an eligible student to a nonpublic school, the AEA/LEA must initiate and conduct an IEP meeting to develop an IEP. The public agency shall ensure that a representative of the nonpublic school attends the meeting, including offering alternative means of participation in the meeting.

The AEA/LEA and the nonpublic school must agree to which entity will initiate subsequent IEP meetings. If the nonpublic school initiates and conducts these meetings, the public agency shall ensure that the parents and an agency representative are involved in any decision about the student’s IEP and agree to any proposed changes before those changes are implemented.

Responsibility of Iowa Department of Education (DE)

It is the DE’s responsibility to assure that a student with a disability who is placed in or referred to a private school or facility by a public agency is: provided, at no cost to the parents, that special education and related services in conformance with an IEP that meets the requirements of the Rules that meets the standards that apply to the state education agency and LEA, and the student has all of the rights of a child with a disability who is served by a public agency.

The DE also:

  • Monitors compliance through procedures such as written reports, on-site visits, and parent questionnaires
  • Disseminates copies of applicable standards to each private school and facility to which a public agency has referred or placed a child with a disability
  • Provides an opportunity for those private schools and facilities to participate in the development and revision of state standards that apply to them

Even if a nonpublic school or facility implements an individual’s IEP, responsibility for compliance with the Iowa Administrative Rules of Special Education remains with the public agency and the state.

AEA & LEA Responsibilities:

The AEA and its LEAs are obligated to provide services to nonpublic school students with disabilities in the same manner and to the same extent as services provided to public school students with disabilities.

Neither the AEA nor LEA may provide services to a nonpublic school student that are:

  • Significantly different than those that would be provided to the same student in a public school
  • Not reasonably calculated to provide the same benefit that the student would receive if educated in a public school

Health services, special education support, and related services provided by AEA for the purpose of identifying children with disabilities, assistance with physical and communications needs of students with physical disabilities, and services of an educational interpreter may be provided on nonpublic school premises with the permission of the lawful custodian of the property. Other special education services may be provided on nonpublic school premises at the discretion of the school district or area education agency provider of the service and with the permission of the lawful custodian of the property. Iowa Code 256.12] 

Special education weightings will be determined according to AEA procedures.

AEAs are responsible for locating, identifying, and evaluating all private school children, including religiously-affiliated school children, who have disabilities and reside in or attend an accredited nonpublic school (including those who reside out-of-state) within the jurisdiction of the local AEA.

Consultation with Nonpublic Schools

Iowa Rules impose a specific requirement for “timely and meaningful” consultation between districts and the nonpublic schools within their district which fulfills IDEA’s requirements for the use of Part B funds to serve private school students with disabilities. The consultation must occur at least annually.

Required Components of Consultation

The required consultation process must ensure adequate participation, including an opportunity to make and respond to comments via face-to-face meetings, telephone conference calls, video conferences, etc.

The consultation process must include:

  • A parent of a student with disabilities in an accredited nonpublic school
  • A representative of the nonpublic schools
  • A representative of attending (not sending) school districts
  • An AEA representative

The consultation process should explain to participants how data are to be gathered and reported.  The Iowa Department of Education will calculate the proportionate share of Part B funds for each AEA based on data provided to the Department. Child Find activities will not be counted toward whether the Area Education Agency (AEA) satisfied its proportionate share obligation.

Note:  Consultation does not occur with non-accredited nonpublic “schools.”

After the consultation process, the AEA must obtain a written affirmation that the consultation has occurred, signed by the representatives of participating accredited nonpublic schools.  

Filing a Complaint

Accredited nonpublic schools may file a complaint with the Iowa Department of Education if it believes the AEA did not engage in timely and meaningful consultation and/or give due consideration to the views of the authorized representative of the accredited nonpublic school.

If the accredited nonpublic school disagrees with the Iowa Department of Education’s determination, it may then appeal to the United States Department of Education.  For additional information, refer to Notice to Representative of Participating Accredited Nonpublic Schools.

Federal and State Restrictions to the Use of Part B Funds in Nonpublic Schools

Federal regulations place several restrictions on the use of Part B funds to provide special education or related services to eligible students placed by their parents in private schools (including religious schools):

  • Personnel who provide Part B funded special education or related services in accredited nonpublic schools must meet the same standards as personnel employed in public schools; however, elementary and secondary school teachers in accredited nonpublic schools need not meet the highly qualified teacher requirements of IDEA 04.
  • Special education and related services, including materials, must be secular, neutral, and non-ideological.
  • Special education and related services must be provided by an employee of an LEA or AEA, or by contract with the LEA or AEA.
  • Special education and related services may be provided on the private school site, at the discretion of the school district or AEA provider of the service, and with the permission of the lawful custodian of the property.
  • The AEA or LEA must not use Part B funds to finance the existing level of instruction in a private school or to otherwise benefit the private school.
  • The AEA or LEA must use Part B funds to meet the needs of parentally-placed students with disabilities (consistent with the agreement reached after consultation), but must not use Part B funds to meet the needs of the private school or the general needs of the students enrolled in the private school.
  • LEA or AEA personnel may be used to provide services to eligible individuals enrolled in private schools to the extent necessary to provide equitable services and only if those services are not normally provided by the private school.
  • The LEA or AEA may use Part B funds to pay for the services of an employee of a private school to provide equitable services only if the employee performs the services outside of his or her regular hours of duty and the LEA or AEA supervises and controls the private school employee’s services.
  • An LEA or AEA may not use Part B funds for classes that are organized separately on the basis of school enrollment or religion of the children if the classes are at the same site and the classes include children enrolled in public schools and children enrolled in private schools.
  • The LEA or AEA must control and administer funds used to provide services to private school students with disabilities and must hold title to any real or personal property purchased with such funds.
  • The LEA or AEA may place equipment and supplies on private school property while necessary to provide equitable services.
  • The LEA or AEA must ensure equipment and supplies are used only for Part B purposes and can be removed from the private school without remodeling the private school facility.
  • The LEA or AEA must remove equipment or supplies if no longer needed for Part B purposes or to prevent unauthorized use.
  • Part B funds must not be used for repairs, minor remodeling, or construction of private school facilities.
  • Services provided to private school children with disabilities may be provided on-site at the child’s school, including religiously affiliated schools, to the extent consistent with the law.
  • If necessary for the child to benefit from or participate in the services provided under Part B, a parentally-placed private school child with a disability must be provided transportation from the child's school or the child's home to a site other than the private school or from the service site to the private school, or to the child's home, depending on the timing of services, LEAs are not required to provide transportation from the child's home to the private school.

Neither the AEA nor the LEA nor the accredited nonpublic school is required to agree to provide services on the site of an accredited nonpublic school. Under court cases, however, the AEA or LEA must not abuse its discretion to agree to provide services on the site of the accredited nonpublic school.

Students enrolled in non-accredited, nonpublic schools are treated in the same manner as children enrolled in Competent Private Instruction. Therefore, services are not provided to students enrolled in non-accredited nonpublic schools unless the student is dual enrolled. [Iowa Code § 299A.8] Services are not provided on the site of a non-accredited nonpublic school.

Confidentiality and Maintaining Files

For eligible individuals, IDEA regulations require parental consent before personally identifiable information is released between a local district (LEA) and the Area Education Agency (AEA) where a child resides and an LEA/AEA in which an accredited nonpublic school where a child attends is located.

This release of information requirement does not apply if the accredited nonpublic school is located in the same LEA/AEA where the parent resides. The Consent to Exchange Personally Identifiable Information form is available in Resources.

For any student who receives their educational services in programs operated by a public or private agency other than the school district of residence of the parent, the district of residence must maintain files for the student. The files must include contracts for services outside the district (tuition-out students) as well as copies of IEPs. Also, contracts and IEPs for any students accepted from other districts on tuition-in basis must also be maintained by the attending district.