FAPE is the acronym for a Free and Appropriate Public Education. It is one of the most misunderstood concepts of the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA). And it often causes the greatest conflict between parents and schools. A required component of IDEA, FAPE mandates that school districts provide access to general education and specialized educational services. It also requires that children with disabilities receive support free of charge as is provided to non-disabled students. It also provides access to general education services for children with disabilities by encouraging that support and related services be provided to children in their general education settings as much as possible.
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.