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U.S. EDUCATION > The U.S. Education System > Special Needs and Charter Schools > Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services

Welcome to OSEP!

Ideas That Work

The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) is dedicated to improving results for infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities ages birth through 21 by providing leadership and financial support to assist states and local districts. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) authorizes formula grants to states, and discretionary grants to institutions of higher education and other non-profit organizations to support research, demonstrations, technical assistance and dissemination, technology and personnel development and parent-training and information centers.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 was signed into law by President George W. Bush on December 3, 2004. As the nation's special education law, IDEA serves approximately 6.8 million children and youth with disabilities.


Formula Grant Definition

Formula grant programs are noncompetitive awards based on a predetermined formula. These programs are sometimes referred to as state-adminstered programs. The OSEP-administered Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has three formula grant programs, the Grants to States program authorized by Part B Section 611 for children ages 3 through 21; the Preschool Grants program authorized by Part B Section 619 for children ages 3 through 5; and the Grants for Infants and Families program authorized by Part C for infants and toddlers, ages birth through 2 and their families.

Discretionary Grant definition

Unlike a formula grant, a discretionary grant awards funds on the basis of a competitive process. The department reviews applications, in part through a formal review process, in light of the legislative and regulatory requirements and published selection criteria established for a program. The review process gives the department discretion to determine which applications best address the program requirements and are, therefore, most worthy of funding.


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Information on this section is not intended to constitute advice nor is it to be used as a substitute for specific counsel from a licensed professional. You should not act (or refrain from acting) based upon information in this section without independently verifying the original source information and, as necessary, obtaining professional advice regarding your particular facts and circumstances.