Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, some parents of children enrolled in public schools have made, or are considering making, moves to alternative modes of education. Private schools, parochial schools, and homeschooling have all reported higher interest over the past year, and while enrollment data is not yet solid enough to officially call it a trend, it appears that some shifts away from public schools will occur in the next year.
Much of this stems from the disruption of the pandemic and the flexibility that private schools had to bring students back to the classroom. A recent poll by Education Next found that the parents of children enrolled in a private school were more likely to be “very satisfied” with their educational experience this year than parents of children in public or charter schools. In March 2021, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 11.1 percent of households with school-age children reported homeschooling, double the prior year’s figure.
Serving students with disabilities
Whenever families shift from public education into alternative modes of education, there is a particular need to pay attention to services for students with disabilities. As a primer for those not steeped in the rules of special education related services, let’s cover a few important acronyms: IDEA, FAPE and LEA. Services for students with special needs are mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a federal law that requires each state to ensure that a free appropriate public education (FAPE) is available to all eligible children with disabilities. This education is provided by the Local Education Agency (LEA), which is the public school system where the child resides.