Elementary and Secondary SchoolPlanning and Funding Your Child’s Education—Elementary and Secondary School, Part 1

It is the change of routine, supports, and educators as your child transitions from grade to grade that can present some of the greatest challenges. Positive transition experiences through the elementary and secondary school years may provide your child with the right mix of academic achievement and self-esteem for success.

As provided by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), parents bear no tuition expense to send their children through the public education system from kindergarten to senior year in high school. Private schools charge tuition and some fees. Both the public and private education systems provide traditional classroom education as well as specialized programs that support your child’s disability learning and developmental needs.

Types of Schools

Your community may provide educational options beyond those provided by your local public school. The alternative schools funded with public monies listed below are required to to offer special educational services, and may also have an approach that works more effectively with your child's learning style.

Magnet Schools

These schools provide a particular focus on a type of coursework, such as science, technology, or fine arts. Coursework in magnet schools is tied to state standards and overseen by the public school distinct.

Charter Schools

These schools are tailored to meet the specific needs of a geographic area or student body. Charter schools are funded by the public education system but overseen by a school board elected by parents, teachers, and school staff. This board, along with input from community members, determines how the school will teach a standards based curriculum to students. Students must still meet state standards to graduate.

Online Schools

Also known as distance learning schools, online schools offer coursework through the Internet. Licensed teachers provide online instruction that must meet state standards. Your child might find that learning through online coursework is more comforting and suitable to his or her learning style. For example, coursework can be presented in video and audio formats. If you think your child might be more successful learning online than through the face-to-face method used at traditional schools, discuss this option with your child's IEP team. 

The coursework and testing provided by publicly-funded online schools must be accessible to  students with disabilities, and specific accommodations outlined in a student IEP must be provided.

Alternative Schools

The coursework for public and private alternative schools is designed to help students perform better—students who haven’t been able to improve their performance in traditional school environments.

Examples of programs offered at alternative schools include:

  • Emotional growth programs
  • Programs for youth at risk (of dropping out)
  • Special-needs programs
  • Therapeutic wilderness programs

(See Dore Frances, IEC, founder of Horizon Family Solutions, LLC. “What is an "Alternative School"? Internet Special Education Resources (ISER). Retrieved from http://www.iser.com/resources/alternative-schools.html on September 12, 2009.)

Alternative schools that operate within the public school structure are offered at no expense to families. Private alternative schools may charge a monthly tuition.

Speak with a representative at your disability-specific organization or network at your local Parent Center for information about alternative schools that can serve your child. Remember to discuss the matter with your child's IEP team

Private Schools

Private schools with coursework designed around specific disabilities exist in many states. Families are required to pay tuition. Some schools offer scholarships or financial aid. Speak with a representative at your disability-specific organization for information about private schools that can serve your child. Also, consult your IEP team.

The National Association of Private Special Education Centers (NAPSEC) represents private educational institutions serving individuals with disabilities. NAPSEC has information about these private schools located across the country, and information on how to apply for financial assistance as well. To find out if your state has private schools that can serve your child, contact NAPSEC:
Call 1-202.434.8225
Visit www.napsec.org
601 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Suite 900 - South Building
Washington, DC 20004

A Public or Private School of Your Choice

Some states offer school choice programs open to children with and without disabilities. Under these programs, you aren’t limited to the public school system—you choose which education program you’d like to send your child to. Types of school choice programs include vouchers, charter schools, and online education. Not all states offer school choice programs.

Some of these school choice programs are called Tax-Credit Scholarship Programs. If you qualify for the tax credit, you would take it when you file your state income tax. Not all states allow this credit, which can offset additional expenses, such as books, school supplies, and transportation that you normally wouldn’t have to pay for if your child attended your local public school. In other school choice programs, individuals or companies offer scholarships directly to the student. To find out if your state offers school choice programs for children with disabilities, contact The Foundation for Educational Choice.

Call 1-317-681-0745
Visit www.edchoice.org/
The Foundation for Educational Choice
One American Square, Suite 2420
Indianapolis, Indiana 46282