How is a free education defined?
Recipients operating federally funded programs must provide necessary services free of charge to students with disabilities and their parents or guardians. Provision of a free education is the provision of educational and related services without cost to the person with a disability or his/her parents or guardians, except for fees equally imposed on nondisabled persons or their parents or guardians.
If a recipient is unable to provide a free appropriate public education itself, the recipient may place a person with a disability in, or refer such person to, a program other than the one it operates.
However, the recipient remains responsible for ensuring that the education offered is an appropriate education, as defined in the law, and for coverage of financial obligations associated with the placement.
The cost of the program may include tuition and other related services, such as room and board, psychological and medical services necessary for diagnostic and evaluative purposes, and adequate transportation. Funds available from any public or private source, including insurers, may be used by the recipient to meet the requirements of FAPE.
If a student is placed in a private school because a school district cannot provide an appropriate program, the financial obligations for this placement are the responsibility of the school district. However, if a school district makes available a free appropriate public education and the student's parents or guardian choose to place the child in a private school, the school district is not required to pay for the student's education in the private school. If a recipient school district places a student with a disability in a program that requires the student to be away from home, the recipient is responsible for the cost of room and board and nonmedical care.
To meet the requirements of FAPE, a recipient may place a student with a disability in, or refer such student to, a program not operated by the recipient. When this occurs, the recipient must ensure that adequate transportation is provided to and from the program at no greater personal or family cost than would be incurred if a person with a disability were placed in the recipient's program.
HOW TO OBTAIN FURTHER ASSISTANCE/INFORMATION
If you would like more information about FAPE and the other laws enforced by the Office for Civil Rights, how to file a complaint, or how to obtain technical assistance, you may want to contact the enforcement office that serves your state or territory. For further information, please contact our Customer Service Team at the toll free number: 1-800-421-3481. You may also visit our web site at http://www.ed.gov/ocr/.
504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, 29 U.S.C. 794.
 Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12131 et seq., prohibits state and local governments from discriminating on the basis of disability. ED enforces Title II in public elementary and secondary education systems and institutions, public institutions of higher education and vocational education (other than schools of medicine, dentistry, nursing, and other health-related schools), and public libraries. The requirements regarding the provisions of a free appropriate public education (FAPE), specifically described in the Section 504 regulations, are incorporated in the general non-discrimination provisions of the Title II regulation. Because Title II does not change the requirements of FAPE, this pamphlet will refer only to Section 504.
 The Section 504 regulation uses the term "handicap." However, Congress has amended the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and has replaced the term "handicap" with the term "disability." The terms "handicap" and "disability" have the same meaning. This pamphlet will only use the term disability.
 A recipient responsible for providing FAPE may not require parents to use private insurance proceeds to pay for required services where the parents would incur financial loss.
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