Improving Systems, Practices and Outcomes

Federal Laws and Guidance


WWW Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

Federal education program that assists states in developing and implementing systems of comprehensive services for all eligible individuals with disabilities, birth through 21 years of age.

WWW Part B of the IDEA requires states to ensure services to children ages 3 through 5 years are provided in the least restrictive environment (LRE) possible.

Relevant sections of the Part B regulations related to LRE are:

WWW Data Tables for State Reported Data used to report number and percentage of children ages 3-5 by race, ethnicity, and settings and educational environments; one measure of performance related to provision of services in inclusive settings with typically developing children.

Federal Policy Letters and Guidance

PDF Dear Colleague Letter on Preschool Least Restrictive Environments (January 9, 2017) Office of Special Education Programs - This letter provides updated guidance and clarification on: Key Statutory and Regulatory Requirements, Preschool Placement Options, Reporting Educational Environments Data for Preschool Children with Disabilities, and Use of IDEA Part B Funds for Preschool Children with Disabilities. It reaffirms OSEP's position that all young children with disabilities should have access to inclusive high-quality early childhood programs where they are provided with individualized and appropriate supports to enable them to meet high expectations.

WWW Policy Statement on Inclusion of Children with Disabilities in Early Childhood Programs (September 14, 2015) - The U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services - This guidance setting a vision for action that recommends states, districts, schools and public and private early childhood programs prioritize and implement policies that support inclusion, improve their infrastructure and offer professional development to strengthen and increase the number of inclusive high-quality early childhood programs nationwide. The Departments crafted the guidance with the input of early learning professionals, families and early learning stakeholders. The policy statement also includes free resources for states, local districts, early childhood personnel and families.

PDF HHS and ED Joint Letter on Suspension and Expulsion Policy (December 10, 2014) U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services

PDF Policy Statement on Expulsion and Suspension Policies in Early Childhood Settings (December 10, 2014) U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services

Reporting Requirements

PDF: B6 Data Reporting Tools: Educational Environments, Ages 3-5 - This resource from the WWW: IDC and ECTA Center assists with 618 data and SPP/APR Part B Indicator 6 Educational Environments data collection and reporting for children ages 3-5. The tool kit includes federal information and guidance, a decision tree, and scenarios that illustrate appropriate reporting categories.(posted October 28, 2014)

Annual Performance Report Data for B6: Preschool LRE

  • WWW 2015 (for APR submitted February 2015, page 56)
  • PDF: 2014 (for APR submitted February 2014, page 51)
  • PDF: 2013 (for APR submitted February 2013, page 51)

Section 504, ADA, Head Start Act

WWW Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Prohibits discrimination on the basis of disabilities in public and private programs and activities that receive federal funds and creates the responsibility to provide a free appropriate public education.

PDF Including Children with Disabilities in State Pre-k Programs (2010) Education Law Center - This article about inclusion and preschool includes a concise explanation of coverage under 504 on page 15, as follows:

"Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) prohibits discrimination by programs receiving federal funds against individuals with 'physical and mental impairment[s] which substantially limit[s] one or more major life activities.' Section 504 covers a broader range of individuals than IDEA, which limits eligibility based on specific disabilities. Public schools, Head Start agencies, and all other programs that receive federal dollars, either directly or indirectly, are bound by the requirements of Section 504. If a school district or other program receiving federal funds, either directly or indirectly, offers a pre-k program, Section 504 requires that it provide pre-k children with disabilities equal access to that program, with reasonable accommodations and modifications. A school district that does not operate a public pre-k program is not obligated under Section 504 to provide a program or services to pre-k children with disabilities."

WWW Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Protects individuals with mental or physical disabilities from discrimination in employment, public accommodations, public transportation, and telecommunications.

Public accommodations include private programs such as family child care homes, child care centers, nursery schools, preschools, and Head Start programs run by public or nonpublic agencies.

PDF Technical Assistance Memo: Moving Toward Americans with Disabilities Act Compliance: A Checklist and Guide for Privately Operated Child Care Programs (2011) produced by a formerly funded HHS/ACF grantee, the Office of Child Care's National Child Care Information and Technical Assistance Center.

WWW Revised Regulations and Additional Resources (2010)

WWW Commonly Asked Questions About Child Care Centers and the ADA (1997)

PDF: Child Care Centers and the ADA (1997) - an overview of resources and guides

WWW Head Start Act as amended December 2007

Provides comprehensive developmental services for low-income infants, toddlers and preschool children, ages birth to 5 years, and social services for their families. Specific services for children focus on education, socio-emotional development, physical and mental health, and nutrition.

WWW: Head Start Program Performance Standards

  • IDEAs that Work: Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education

The ECTA Center is a program of the FPG Child Development Institute of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, funded through cooperative agreement number H326P170001 from the Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education. Opinions expressed herein do not necessarily represent the Department of Education's position or policy.

Project Officer: Julia Martin Eile     © 2012-2019 ECTA Center

  • UNC Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute