Media Statement

Dec. 3, 2020

Contact: Debra Johnson


Celebrating 45 Years of Special Education

Olympia – The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and the Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) are pleased to join together to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

IDEA is the nation’s federal special education law that ensures public schools and state agencies provide all children with disabilities with the services they need to thrive in school and beyond.

Enacted on Nov. 29, 1975, this hallmark legislation significantly changed the educational trajectory for all children with disabilities. IDEA ensures that all children — regardless of ability — have equitable opportunities to grow, play, and learn in inclusive settings.

OSPI and DCYF recognize the value of early intervention for Washington children experiencing developmental delays. OSPI serves as the state education agency for IDEA Part B (students ages 3–21) and DCYF serves as the state lead agency for IDEA Part C (children birth to 3 years old).

OSPI’s Special Education Services division works with school districts, families, and other stakeholders to ensure all children with disabilities have access to a free, appropriate public education.

DCYF’s Early Support for Infants and Toddlers (ESIT) program supports families with information and skills to ensure they are supported as the most critical influence on their child’s early learning and development.

“Though we continue to experience the complexity of COVID-19, over the years we’ve made incredible strides in ensuring our students with disabilities have access to the services and supports they need to thrive,” said State Superintendent Chris Reykdal.

“At the state level, we’ve increased funding for special education services, including funding for inclusive classrooms,” Reykdal continued. “These inclusionary practices lead to improved learning outcomes and higher rates of graduation, post-secondary education, and competitive employment.”

The four primary purposes of IDEA are to:

  • Ensure all children with disabilities have a free, appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs.
  • Ensure the rights of children with disabilities and their guardians are protected.
  • Assist states and localities to provide for the education of all children with disabilities.
  • Assess and ensure the effectiveness of efforts to educate all children with disabilities.

“Early intervention helps children improve their abilities and learn new skills,” said DCYF Secretary Ross Hunter. “Because of IDEA, we are able to provide services and supports that help infants and toddlers with developmental delays or disabilities and their families, which can have a significant impact on a child’s ability to learn new skills and increase their success in school and life.”

Virtual Celebration

Join OSPI and DCYF on Wednesday, Dec. 16, from 3–4 pm for a virtual celebration of Washington state’s journey over the past 45 years of providing education, resources, supports and services to infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities and their families.

The webinar will feature state, regional, and local panelists to reflect on successes, challenges, and potential next steps to continuously improve our systems that support children and their families.

Register online for the virtual celebration.

More Information