A History of Reimbursement: Accessing an EPIC Education

by | Apr 8, 2021

At EPIC, we are committed to empowering families to advocate for the needs of their children and seek reimbursement from the Department of Education for the full cost of our tuition. 

The origins of this reimbursement process date back to the 1960s, when frustrated parents formed advocacy groups to fight for the right to public education for their children with special needs. In 1975, the Education For All Handicapped Children Act was passed. This Act mandated Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) for all children. It also mandated that any ensuing cost for special education should be federally funded. This act later brought forth the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA). 

As special education continued to fight for its place in public education, advocacy groups continued to expose further flaws in the system. The following three Supreme court cases represent the groups’ major feats in expanding FAPE and IDEA to create better accommodations for students with special needs: 

Florence County School District Four v. Carter (1993)

If a public school did not provide an adequate IEP, the parent had the right to challenge the IEP and enroll the child in a more appropriate school, inclusive of private institutions. Under IDEA, they were entitled to reimbursement for the fee associated with enrolling in a private school. This ensured that schools provide adequate IEP and resources to satisfy FAPE for students with special needs. 

Winkelman v. Parma City School District (2007)

IDEA allows a non-lawyer parent to have the ability to represent and argue in federal court on behalf of their child or on their own behalf. Parents were allowed to exercise IDEA for their child’s right to FAPE. Parents are just as involved in choosing the best possible solution for their child. This case defined the importance of parental action and voice in their child’s educational process. 

Forest Grove School District v. T.A (2009)

If a student withdrew from a school for reasons other than their special needs and never received special educational services while enrolled, they would still have the right to reimbursement. The school did not provide appropriate educational services to meet the child’s needs, causing the parent to seek a school that was more appropriate for the child, in this case a private institution. The court found that the school district failed to provide FAPE, thus qualifying for reimbursement. 

While these legal battles have helped ensure that children with special needs have access to a Free Appropriate Public Education, the system is still imperfect, and seeking reimbursement is often a long and stressful endeavor. It is EPIC’s goal to ease this burden by supporting our families through all aspects of the reimbursement process, beginning with the search for a special education attorney. We proactively learn what documentation will be required for each case and put together a reimbursement portfolio throughout each student’s time with us, ensuring that EPIC is an accessible option for as many families as possible. 



Leave a Reply