Alphabet Soup Part 3: FAPE

Have you ever heard of FAPE? Did you know it is part of a national law? FAPE stands for Free and Appropriate Public Education. It is part of IDEA (this will be part 4 of this blog series). FAPE mandates that school districts provide access to general education and specialized educational services. It guarantees that children with disabilities not have to pay for their necessary support as is provided to their non-disabled peers. In addition, it allows access to general education services for students with disabilities by allowing for support and related services take place in the general education setting as much as possible.


This is such an important piece of the law to understand as a parent. We as parents usually interpret the law to mean that public schools have to provide our child with the BEST education. This is simply not the case and leads to many misunderstandings. Usually the teachers and the schools want to provide the best they can for our students, but many obstacles can prevent us from seeing eye to eye. Money is usually the biggest. As the state of the economy continues to plummet, schools are seeing their budgets reflect that. Many services and technologies can be quite costly, and the schools often do not have the funds to provide what we as parents might want.


There are also ideological and pedagogic differences in opinion for what would be considered best practices for specific students with diagnoses. You might suggest something that an educator might never have encountered before, or have tried with a different student and found it to be unsuccessful. You might ask for a one-to-one aid for your child that the school does not deem necessary. Sometimes, special education parents would advocate to the level that their child receive a better education than their non-disabled peers. This law helps to ensure that does not happen.


Another obstacle that poses a threat to misunderstanding of the law is emotions. Parents can become emotional, especially when they feel their child is being treated unfairly or not receiving what s/he needs to succeed. Educators can become defensive and shut down communication as they feel they are being attacked and mistrusted.


Over the years, the courts have helped define what FAPE is and is not. In short, it is vital for parents to understand that IDEA is not an entitlement program that provides disabled children with a better education than is provided to non-disabled students. Use the chart below to help you learn what FAPE can mean to you and your child, and to dispel the many myths about FAPE. 

FAPE Myths

FAPE Facts

Children with disabilities cannot be charged for

  • Materials
  • Student fees
  • Any other costs that are requested of general education students.

Special education and related services are provided

  • At public expense
  • Under public supervision and direction.
  • Without charge to the parent or guardian.

Children with disabilities are not required to

  • Complete basic requirements for graduation.
  • Pass state-approved assessments that demonstrate State standards.

Children with disabilities are provided

(These allow them to have access to and benefit from instruction so they can meet the standards of the State Education Authority.)

The district must provide

  • A specific specialized program or school setting that is chosen by the parent;
  • A program that provides the child greater access to educational materials than their non-disabled peers.

*FAPE also does not require that a school provide educational services that are superior to those provided to non-disabled peers.

The district must provide a program that

  • Complies with the procedural requirements of IDEA;
  • Addresses the child’s unique needs as identified by evaluations, observation, and the child’s educational team and,
  • Is coordinated to ensure the child is able to make aCdequate progress in the educational setting.

*FAPE requires that the quality of educational services provided to students with disabilities be equal to those provided to non-disabled students.

The student with a disability

  • Must be provided preferential treatment or guaranteed placement in extracurricular activities;
  • Does not have to meet the basic requirements of participation that are required of non-disabled peers.

The student with a disability

  • Must have access to nonacademic and extra curricular equal to those provided to non-disabled peers.


The role of an Education Champion IEP consultant is to help mediate the process of getting parents, educators and administrators to come to agreement on what would be an appropriate and individualized public education and to troubleshoot those obstacles as they arise.


As Kim has sat on both sides of the table as a Special Educator and a Parent, she brings a comprehensive understanding of the viewpoints unique to many advocates. Call Education Champion today for a free consultation: 309.824.5738, or email


Chart credit: National Center for Learning Disabilities