56 Children’s Legal Rights Journal [Vol. 38: 1 2018]
of these personalized educational services. 85 In addition, the Court also rejected the argument that
the Act required these individualized services to maximize the child’s potential. 86 Additionally, if
there were insufficient funds to provide for the services needed by the child with a disability, then
the available funds should have been apportioned so that no child’s right to a FAPE was
disproportionately infringed upon. 87 This further illustrates the Court’s belief that the Act was
about access to public education and not educational results.
The Rowley Court, however, believed that it would be pointless for Congress to appropriate
money for access to public education if a child received no benefit from that education. 88 The
Court held that the Act was a combination of access to individualized instructions and services
that provide an educational benefit. 89 The problem lies in determining when enough educational
benefits had been provided to satisfy the Act’s requirements. 90 Thus, the Rowley Court developed
the two-prong test mentioned previously to help answer this question. 91
In developing the two-prong test, the Court makes clear that it is not attempting “to
establish any one test for determining the adequacy of educational benefits conferred upon all
children covered by the Act.” 92 Instead, the Court confined its test to situations similar to the
specific facts of this case: a student with disabilities who was receiving “substantial
specialized…services,” and performing above grade average. 93 This test was not meant for
students that were able to receive services that allowed them to meet the “mainstreaming
preference of the Act,” i.e. allowed them to be educated in classrooms with children who did not
have a disability. Incidentally, this test would subsequently be applied by circuit courts to all claims
of violations of the IDEA for years to come. This led to a circuit split and the recent Supreme
Court case, Endrew F. v. Douglas County School. 94
III. CIRCUIT SPLIT
The circuit split involves the interpretation of how much of an educational benefit is
required under the IDEA. Some circuits have held that only “some educational benefit” is
required, 95 while other circuits require a “meaningful educational benefit.” 96 The most problematic
language in Rowley combines both standards, noting, “[the] ‘basic floor of opportunity’ provided
by the Act consists of access to specialized instruction and related services which are individually
designed to provide educational benefit to the [disabled] child.” 97
85 See generally S. Rep., No. 94-168 (1975); see also H.R. Rep., No. 94–332 (1975).
86 Rowley, 458 U.S. at 198.
87 Id. at 199 (citing Mills v. Bd. of Educ., 384 F. Supp. 866, 876 (D.C. 1972)).
88 Id. at 201–02.
89 Id. at 200–01.
91 Id. at 206–07.
92 Id. at 202.
93 Rowley, 458 U.S. at 202.
94 See generally Endrew F., 798 F.3d at 1338.
95 See id.; see also Cerra v. Pawling, 427 F.3d 186, 195 (2d. Cir. 2005).
96 See Deal v. Hamilton Cnty. Bd. of Educ., 392 F. 3d 840, 862 (6th Cir. 2004).
97 Rowley, 458 U.S. at 201 (emphasis added).