Building your Foundation: Impact of Legal Identity

Impact of Legal Identity (LEA and non-LEA)

The public education system consists of State Education Agencies (SEAs), school districts or other Local Education Agencies (LEAs), and schools that are part of an LEA.

Traditionally, the LEA was responsible for educating all of the children residing within its geographical boundaries. Charter schools, however, are schools of choice whose responsibility is limited to those students who attend their school. IDEA assigns primary responsibility for implementation of its requirements to the states, which in turn largely delegate those responsibilities to individual LEAs. How a charter school fits into this structure, therefore, is critical to understanding the schools’ responsibilities for special education.

Individual state charter laws typically determine whether a charter school is its own LEA or part of a larger LEA. To further complicate matters, a few states, such as New York and New Hampshire, use a more complex arrangement where charter schools are their own LEA for some purposes and part of an LEA for others. Additionally, some states allow for the charter schools or the entity that authorizes them to choose their LEA status, which can mean that schools within the same state have different legal status.

Unsure of your status? See Appendix A for a list of entity status by state.

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