It’s important to know how special education law affects private schools. If your child qualifies for special education and you choose to send him to private school, he may be able to receive some special education services that are paid for by the public school district. However, some private schools might not offer much support or grant admission to students who struggle. Here are a few key things to keep in mind.

1. Evaluations for Special Education Services

Federal law requires public school districts to look for and evaluate students who are suspected of having disabilities. This requirement is called Child Find. It applies to students who attend private school as well as those who attend public school or are homeschooled.

This means that if you or your child’s teachers think he might have, for example, a learning disability, you can request an evaluation that is paid for by the public school system. Decisions about evaluating private school students are made by the public school district where the private school is located.

The district will consult with your child’s school before deciding whether your child needs to have an evaluation. If the district agrees to evaluate, it will be responsible for arranging and paying for these tests.

2. Equitable Services

If your child qualifies for special education, you can make a choice. You can move your child to your local public school so he can receive the full range of special education services. Or you can have him stay at the private school and get what’s called “equitable services.”

Equitable services are paid for by public funding. This funding is set aside specifically for students with disabilities whose parents place them in private school. But because this funding is limited, your child might receive fewer free services if he attends private school than if he switches to public school.

3. Services Plan

If you choose to send your child to private school, the school and the district may create what’s called a “services plan.” This written plan is similar to an Individualized Education Program (IEP). But a services plan tends to be less comprehensive than an IEP.

4. Teacher Certification

It’s important to note that public schools have strict guidelines for special education teachers. Private schools may use different hiring standards.

5. Accommodations

Private schools are usually willing to provide certain accommodations like extra time on tests and the use of assistive technology. A private school may also allow your child to be tutored at the school, during the class day, by a private tutor that you pay for. But it’s also possible that your child’s needs may be so great that the school will recommend you send him to a public school that has more resources.

6. Placement Decisions

When a school district determines that a child is eligible for special education, the district will also decide which learning environment and special services are appropriate for him. Parents are part of the team that makes this decision about placement.

In some cases the district will agree to what’s called an out-of-district placement. That’s when the district you reside in agrees to pay for the cost of sending your child to a school that is approved by the state to educate students with a certain range of disabilities. Out-of-district placement happens when the district agrees that your child’s local public school can’t meet his needs.

If you and the district disagree about which placement your child needs, you may want to consider a strategy called unilateral placement. This process involves notifying the district before enrolling your child in a private, state-approved school.

How You Can Help

If your child is struggling in private school, you may be debating some big decisions. Time to get a tutor? Ready to request an evaluation? Switch schools or stay? The Decision Guide can help you think through these and other key questions about the ways you can help your child.

For Texas Parents

A parent can get full services for their child by accepting the IEP developed by the ARD/IEP team and enrolling the child full-time in the public school. However, in TX if the child is under 5, they can be enrolled part-time in the public school and attend the private school the rest of the day. (Dual-Enrollment)

The private and public school are to work together to plan what services they will provide to private school students with disabilities. Because of the state/federal rules, and limited funds for this, public schools do not have to provide service plans for all private students with disabilities.

The ADA applies to private schools in regards to accessibility and discrimination. In Texas, homeschooling is considered the same as private schooling. So a child who is homeschooled could receive a service plan.