Free and Appropriate Public Education is, within the context of the stated, an affirmation of the right of disabled children to receive an education which meets their specific and special needs, without extra cost to them or to their families. Given the legislative roots of the defined right, schools are obligated to provide special needs students with an education which is tailored to meet their specific requirements, even as it prepares them for future independent living and employability. It is interesting to note that even though Free and Appropriate Public Education is clearly delineated by legislature as a right owed to disabled children, the constituent elements of FAPE are not clearly outlined. Questions regarding precisely what constitutes a free and appropriate public education persist. This paper will try to answer these questions.
Free public education has long been recognized as a responsibility owed by governments, not just to citizens, but to their societies and nations. As Chief Justice Warren noted in Brown v Board of Education:
Public education is a principal instrument for awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him or her for later training, and in helping them adjust normally to their environment. It is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he or she is denied the opportunity of an education (Brown v Board of Education, 1954).
The above statement, made in 1954, underscores the importance of free, public education, insofar as it identifies it as the foundations of citizenship, acculturation, socialization and success. Whether on the individual or the collective/societal level, free public education is a fundamental concern since its availability is one of the primary determinants of national progress and development.
Free public education is important but, of greater importance, is