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Congress Gives Special Education $500 Million Boost

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After being pounded by budget cuts last year, special education is set to see some relief under a deal approved by Congress.

Federal funding for programs benefiting students with disabilities will rise by roughly $500 million this year under a $1.012 trillion bipartisan spending bill passed this week in Congress that’s expected to be signed by President Barack Obama.

That’s enough money to add some 6,000 more special education staff across the country, lawmakers said.

The deal brings the total funding for programs under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to $12.5 billion for the current fiscal year, which runs through September. The figure represents an increase over last year, restoring many of the across-the-board spending cuts that took hold under sequestration, but is still less than the federal government spent on special education in 2012.

“Given the fiscal climate and the pressures that members of Congress are under to cut from all programs, we recognize that getting a $500 million increase is a positive step,” said Kim Hymes, senior director of policy and advocacy at the Council for Exceptional Children, which lobbies on behalf of special educators.

Nonetheless, she acknowledged that “it is far from what we need.”

In addition to special education, the research budget at the National Institutes of Health will rise under the deal, as will funding for mental health programs and Section 8 housing assistance for renters.

At the same time, however, federal spending on state vocational rehabilitation grants, the IDEA preschool program, state developmental disabilities councils and some other programs benefiting people with disabilities will remain flat, according to Katy Neas, senior vice president of government relations at Easter Seals.

“Given what could have happened, this is a victory,” Neas said. “We are still way behind in getting to a level playing field in most disability programs — the current need far outweighs what the current funding levels support, but we could have gone farther backwards and we didn’t.”

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Comments (5 Responses)

  1. Dan says:

    This is good news.. . yet, with all of the research and information still showing that the first 3 years of a child’s life are the most critical in all areas of development. . . . that is the area left behind. . .

  2. Suzanne Taffet-Romano says:

    This $500 million “restoration” is a drop in the bucket, considering the enormous economic burden for schools desperately trying to educate hundreds of thousands of students in the face of increasingly intrusive legislation and the unreal expectations put upon special educators today

  3. lanie peterson says:

    it’s about time that Congress didn’t cut funding for special education!

  4. Rosemary Lynch Kelleher says:

    A huge, huge thank you to those who lobbied on behalf of our children and got this increase. Every dollar helps; and importantly you’re building the track record for the need. Bravo!

  5. Lana says:

    I guess none of that money made it to my son’s school because at his last IEP I asked what the school had to offer middle high students with disabilities besides an IEP and all I got was silence. They have nothing to offer my son that is autistic and the Director of Special Ed at my son’s school doesn’t even know about the trainings that I ask her if the school can provide. I really wish some of that money would make it to my son’s school because right now I’m concerned about his education. I’m looking into different school districts that understand and care about their students!

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