Don Peek: A Few Misconceptions about Special Education

This post is authored by Don Peek, a former educator and past president of the training division of Renaissance Learning. He now runs The School Funding Center, a company that provides grant information and grant-writing services to schools. To learn more, or to subscribe to the School Funding Center Grant Database, go to schoolfundingcenter.




A Few Misconceptions about Special Education

Special education and the services available through special education are often misunderstood by parents and other community members. It is not that unusual even for educators who are not a part of the special education system to have limited knowledge about how special education provides evaluations and services to those students who qualify.

One common misconception is that some students can’t receive certain special education services from a public school because the school is small and unable to provide such things as speech or occupational therapy. In reality, all special education programs are heavily subsidized by federal funding. If either a school’s diagnostician or an outside evaluator determines that a child qualifies for a special education service, then the school district, regardless of its size or financial condition, is obligated to provide that service. If the school cannot provide the service, then it must contract to have that service provided by a licensed individual or an outside agency.

Another misconception is that once an IEP (Individualized Educational Program) is signed by all parties, it cannot be changed until the next annual IEP meeting. That is simply not true. Parents can request an IEP meeting at any time, and it must be held within 30 days of their request. If changes are agreed upon, an amendment is simply added to the IEP.

It is often believed that the school has the final decision as to whether a child is eligible to receive special education services. Actually, parents have the right to disagree with the school’s eligibility assessment and can ask for an IEE (Independent Educational Evaluation) at the school’s expense. If there is a disagreement after the IEE between the school and the parents, the parents then have the right to a due process hearing where an impartial hearing officer will make the determination as to eligibility.

Many people have the idea that special education services are restricted to special education classrooms. A number of parents of special education students were special education students themselves when they went to school. It is possible that their programs consisted mainly of going to special education classrooms for instruction in the various subject areas. Today, that simply is not the case in most schools. Special education requires educating students in the least restrictive environment. That means that disabled children should be educated in the regular classroom along with the general population of students as much as possible. To do less is to violate special education policy.

It is often believed that special education is extremely costly and is a constant drain on the regular budgets of most schools. That simply is not the case. While sports programs, art, band, and other programs for the general population are totally funded by the regular school budget, the special education program is largely subsidized by the federal government. It is true that taxpayers are still paying for these services through the federal taxes that they pay, but a very small amount of the money for special education is actually coming out of a school district’s regular budget.

Providing appropriate special education services for all of the students who qualify is a complex and expensive task. There is little wonder that a host of misconceptions surrounding special education have sprung up over the years as it has grown and improved its services.


Grant Name: LEGO Children’s Fund Grants

Funded By: LEGO Children’s Fund

Description: The LEGO Children’s Fund will provide quarterly grants for programs, either in part or in total, with a special interest paid to collaborative efforts and in providing matching funds to leverage new dollars into the receiving organization. We will give priority consideration to programs that both meet our goals and are supported in volunteer time and effort by our employees.

Program Areas: After-School, At-Risk/Character, General Education, Health/PE, Math, Reading, Science/Environment, Social Studies, Special Education, Technology

Recipients: Public School, Private School, Other

Proposal Deadline: 1/15/13

Average Amount: $500.00 – $5,000.00



Availability: All States


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