PDE Special Education Policy Change

PDE Special Education Policy Change

September 5, 2023

FROM: Carole L. Clancy, Ed. D., Director, Bureau of Special Education
SUBJECT: Change in Age of Eligibility for Free and Appropriate Public Education
The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) is writing to communicate an important policy
change that will provide continued education services to special education students. This policy
change will ensure students can access Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) as they are
entitled under federal law.

Effective no later than September 5, 2023, all students entitled to FAPE and all of the
rights and procedural safeguards under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
(IDEA) and Chapter 14 of Title 22 of the Pennsylvania Code may remain enrolled in public
school until they turn 22 years of age. This includes students who turned 21 and exited
during or after the 2022-2023 school term.


IDEA requires states to make FAPE available to “all children with disabilities residing in the state
between the ages of 3 and 21, inclusive.” In Pennsylvania, every child between the ages of six
and 21 years is entitled to attend the public schools in their school district of residence until
graduation from high school or the end of the school term in which a student reaches the age of
21 years, whichever occurs first. Based on these legal provisions, the commonwealth previously
made FAPE available to students with disabilities until the end of the school term in which they
reach their 21st birthday.

Over the past decade, states that have been providing public education through adult education
programs to individuals between the ages of 21 and 22 have extended the age of eligibility for
special education through age 21 to comply with section 1412(a)(1)(B) of IDEA. In
Pennsylvania, adult education programs are made available to individuals between the ages of
21 and 22. See 24 P.S. § 6403. These programs receive public funding and are free to students,
are under public direction and supervision, and provide secondary education. Therefore, PDE
has concluded that Pennsylvania’s adult education programs constitute public education for the
purposes of section 1412(a)(1)(B) of IDEA, and Pennsylvania is required to make FAPE
available to students with disabilities until their 22nd birthday. This change is effective no later
than September 5, 2023.

Policy Revision
PDE has revised its guidance pertaining to INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABLITIES EDUCATION
follows: www.education.pa.gov/Documents/IDEAB.pdf

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania ensures that all children with disabilities ages 3 years
through 21 years residing in Pennsylvania have the right to a FAPE, including children with
disabilities who have been suspended or expelled from school. The commonwealth shall
make FAPE available to a child with a disability eligible under IDEA until the student turns 22.

Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, a child eligible under IDEA
who attains the age of twenty-one (21) years may remain enrolled in their resident district
free of charge until their 22nd birthday.

Next Steps
LEAs should review the FAQs: https://www.education.pa.gov/Pages/IDEABFAQ.aspx.
They should then take the following steps to comply with this change in policy:

  • PDE will be contacting students with disabilities who turned 21 and exited during or after
    the 2022-2023 school term. LEAs should also contact those students and provide them
    the option to re-enroll and access FAPE until their 22nd birthday.
  • LEAs should include a link to PDE’s webpage that contains the Amended Age-Out
    Policy, a copy of the Notice Letter, and a copy of the Penn Link Communication on their
  • Upon enrollment, LEAs should provide FAPE in accordance with IDEA.
    Please direct questions or requests for assistance to RA-PDESPECIALED@pa.gov.