Section 2: Children and youth with disability
2.3. Over the past two decades, has enrollment in federally funded special education changed in relation to total public school enrollment?
Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), all children with disabilities are entitled to a free and appropriate education designed to meet their unique needs. In the school year ending 1996, 5.6 million children and youth, 3-21 years, received special education services, funded by IDEA, Part B. Since 1977, enrollment in federally funded special education programs has increased at a greater rate than total public school enrollment. Between 1977 and 1996, the number of students in special education grew 52%, while total public school enrollment increased by 1%.
The chart below shows enrollment in special education as a percentage of total public school enrollment from 1977 to 1995, by type of disability. In 1995, children with disabilities in special education programs represented 12% of all students, up from 8% in 1977. Most of this increase was due to a dramatic rise in enrollment of students with specific learning disabilities, which rose from 1.8% of total public school enrollment in 1997 to 5.6% in 1995.
Special education enrollment increased substantially over the past two decades.
Figure 8: Children and youth (0 to 21 years old) in special education, as percentage of total public school enrollment, by disability type, 1977-1995
Sources: Website: http://www.nces.ed.gov/nces/pubs/ce/index.html; U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS: 1996, 1997); U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (1997, 1998).
Surveys: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, Data Analysis System