Even as President Barack Obama called for virtually no change to special education spending in his budget proposal, members of Congress are pressing forward with efforts to fully fund the program.
A bill introduced this week with bipartisan backing in the U.S. House of Representatives calls for increases in spending over the next decade in order to bring special education up to a level known as “full funding.” A similar proposal is expected to be introduced in the U.S. Senate in the coming weeks, sources say.
“For too long, Congress has failed to meet its commitment to our students and teachers, straining local resources as school districts work to meet the needs of special education,” reads a joint statement from the measure’s sponsors — U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., Rep. Chris Gibson, R-N.Y., and Rep. David Reichert, R-Wash.
“This legislation will guarantee funding increases for IDEA to ensure that our schools have the resources to provide a first-class education for every child,” they said.
The move is an attempt to course-correct nearly four decades after Congress committed to educating students with disabilities.
Despite promising to foot 40 percent of the bill for special education when the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was originally enacted in 1975, the federal government has never covered more than 18.5 percent of the cost. States and localities have been left to pick up the difference.
Last month, more than 130 members of the House called on Obama to provide an increase for special education in his 2015 budget proposal and to establish a plan to reach full funding within a decade.
However, while Obama’s plan released this week calls for a 2 percent rise in overall education spending, it includes no significant changes to special education funding.
“We were really dismayed not to see a greater investment in the program,” said Kim Hymes, senior director of policy and advocacy at the Council for Exceptional Children, which lobbies on behalf of special educators.