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Free and Appropriate Public Education: What Does It Mean?

 

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of acronyms floating around the education world. One of those acronyms is more important than others, though, especially for families whose children fall under the Individuals with Disabilities Act, or IDEA. That acronym is FAPE, and it stands for Free and Appropriate Public Education.

A free and appropriate public education (FAPE) is an education that is paid for by the public — not by individual families. It’s designed to meet the child’s unique needs as stated in his or her IEP. A FAPE is available as part of the normal public education system in each community. It also prepares the child for whatever is appropriate for them; the next level of education, job, and life as an adult.

Every child in the state of Missouri who qualifies for IDEA also qualifies for FAPE. It doesn’t matter how small the child’s school or how limited the district’ resources, it’s still the school’s legal requirement to provide a free, adequate education to every child.

FAPE doesn’t mean that students under IDEA get a better education that kids who don’t qualify for IDEA. It means that the law requires schools to provide an equal education to disabled students as it does to other students. Missouri public schools must prepare disabled students for college, employment, and adult living just like they prepares every other Missouri public school student.

A common misperception about IDEA and FAPE is that a FAPE entitles disabled students to everything related to their education absolutely free. In reality, students who qualify under IDEA still have to pay for the same supplies, extracurricular costs, club memberships, and all of the other incidental educational expenses that every other child in public schools has to pay.

Do you think you’ve got your mind wrapped around the concept of a free and adequate public education for Missouri’s disabled students? Take this quiz to test your knowledge.

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