Beginnings of Special Education

Special Education in the United States - Wisconsin - Walworth County

The Chapter 115 legislation became the groundswell of grassroots support and advocacy that led to the significant history of special education in all of America. Congress approved the "Education for All Handicapped Children Act" (Public Law 94-142) on November 29, 1975. This law was intended to support states and local school districts in "protecting the rights of, meeting the individual needs of, and improving the results for infants, toddlers, children and youths with disabilities and their families." After the adoption of the parameters of this Legislative Act, Public Law 94-142 went into effect in October 1977, becoming the legislative foundation for federal funding of special education. Public Law 94-142 required schools to provide "free appropriate public education" to students with a wide range of disabilities, as well as mandated that school districts provide such schooling in the "least restrictive environment" possible.

In 1983, the law was extended to include parent training and information centers at the state level. In 1986, early intervention programs for infants and education services for preschoolers were added. Services and eligibility were again expanded in 1990 and the law was renamed the "Individuals with Disabilities Education Act" (IDEA). The IDEA has been reauthorized and expanded ever since.

Special education throughout Walworth County during the advancement of the IDEA legislation did not experience any significant changes. Programs and services continued to evolve, and student enrollment numbers grew at a rate that was consistent with the overall population growth in Walworth County.