Update: IDEA and Department of Defense Schools

Important Update for Parent Centers Working with Military Families: Change in DoD IDEA Regulation

The Department of Defense (DoD) operates its own schools at installations abroad and several in the United States. Previously, Early Intervention Services (EIS), special education, and related services for children eligible to attend DoD schools were provided under IDEA 1997.  In contrast, State and public schools provide these services under the 2004 amendments to IDEA.

Since July 27, 2015, DoD schools and EIS will be following a revised regulation (32 CFR Part 57) that brings DoD “into compliance with the requirements of the non-funding and non-reporting provisions” of Parts B and C of the IDEA (Department of Defense, Office of the Secretary, 2015). Since DoD does not receive funding from Department of Education (DoE) to provide EIS and special education, it is exempt from the funding and reporting provisions of Parts B and C of the IDEA.

Please read this article for the most recent information on special education and Early Intervention in Department of Defense Schools: Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) School System.

Can military families now expect the same interpretation of IDEA whether their children receive services through State and public schools or Department of Defense? At this point, we’re not certain. A clear understanding of the implications will need careful analysis. We have been informed that COPAA (external link) (Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates) has received a request to review the revisions.  If they do, we will refer you to any resources they develop.


  • When assisting a military family, it is important to know whether their child receives services through State and public schools or DoD.
  • It will take time for the new regulation to be fully implemented.
  • There will (probably) still be differences in how public schools/States and DoD interpret and implement the IDEA.

If you’d like a quick refresher on IDEA 1997/2004 differences, see our resource on DoD schools.


Department of Defense, Office of the Secretary (2015). Provision of Early Intervention and Special Education Services to Eligible DoD Dependents. Federal Register, 80 (122), 36654-36688. Retrieved from: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-06-25/pdf/2015-15343.pdf (external link)