Schools Should not Cut IEP Hours Per a Formula

Jul 31, 2020 | Covid-19

Question: If a school district is offering fewer instructional hours to all students due to COVID-19, can it automatically “pro-rate” IEP service hours downwards, in proportion to what it is offering non-disabled students? In other words, if total instructional time is being reduced by 20% for all students, can the district cut IEP service hours across the board by 20% for all students with disabilities?

Answer: Nope. That’s not how it’s supposed to work.

Under the IDEA, a student with a disability (SWD) should get what they need to support their IEP goals and make progress in the general curriculum. This analysis should be based on a SWD’s individualized needs, not on a comparison to what a non-disabled student is getting. If a SWD needed 10 service hours pre COVID, then why would they only need 8 hours during COVID? If anything, a SWD would likely need more during these times, not less, as learning loss is a widely-recognized concern.

In any event, any reduction in hours should be a determination made by the IEP team with parent input, based on the SWD’s individualized circumstances. Hours should never be cut indiscriminately per a formula to meet a district’s preferences for scheduling. Parents should not be told that hours must be reduced. And, these decisions should not be made outside of an IEP team discussion.

So what’s driving this?

A school district that finds it inconvenient to fully implement IEP hours as written during the pandemic may be incentivized to modify IEPs to adjust hours downwards in an effort to avoid obligations to provide compensatory services for missed hours later. But Virginia is a consent state so parents in Virginia do not have to agree to amend IEPs to reduce their children’s service hours.