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Lawmakers Press For Full Funding Of Special Education


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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promising to foot 40 percent of the bill for special education when the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was originally enacted in 1975, the federal government has never covered more than 18.5 percent of the cost.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.

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Comments (8 Responses)

  1. Emilie says:

    Full funding ONLY for districts that provide authentic LRE for students. Full funding needs to include the creation of a funding stream for publicly funded attorneys for families who must endure due process for their children to receive FAPE. Right now, if a school doesn’t want to provide FAPE and you don’t have $40,000 for attorney fees, you cannot access your right to due process. “Due process” is not a right if its only available to certain affluent segments of the population. LRE is LRE, it should not depend on what district you live in.

  2. Sue Keller says:

    Emilie, you are right. Right now, the LRE is what the public school says it is. Same with FAPE. Meanwhile, our kids are growing up being taught in ways that don’t work for them. Public school special education is still “one size fits all” for all disabilities.

  3. Mark Halpert says:

    The present funding rate will cost us a small fortune in the future. In 2015, we expect 95% of the students with disabilities in Florida to score below grade level on the State Mandated Test

    Worse than that, 75 to 80% of the 3rd graders with a disability will be at risk for 3rd grade retention. We can do better than that.

    Money is not the only issue, but it is critical for the professional development of both general education and special education teachers, for the programs that are needed and to both increase high school graduation rates and to increase the success rate by 3rd grade for the next generation

    Underfunding by the Federal Government and State Government cuts have gutted the programs, and left the students at risk. It is time to get it right!!!

  4. Janet Edghill says:

    Hi–do you have a recent source for the 18.5% number? I cited it in my dissertation draft but my source is a decade old…thanks!

  5. Ellen Chambers says:

    The crux of the issue isn’t money, it’s that fact that there are two categories of education: “regular education” and “special education.”

    We have children. They all learn a bit differently. Some more differently than others. It’s time we decided to educate them all in the way that they learn best. Some students without disabilities need a lot of extra help in school, some students with disabilities need very little if any. We need to approach education individually, not categorically.

    Do we have “girls’ education” and “boys’ education”? Do we have “white education” and “black education”? Of course not. But there was a time, and not all that long ago, when we accepted this type of segregation as just the natural order of things. It was an archaic and hurtful value system. One, sadly, that we continue to cling to when it comes to students with disabilities.

    There are so many examples, but here’s one that has always made me furious:

    School districts routinely reach out to families who have “typically developing” preschoolers, inviting their children to participate in the districts’ integrated preschool program as “typical role models” for their classmates with special needs. The assumption is that the social, emotional and behavioral functioning of “typical” students is “good” while that of student’s with disabilities is “impaired” and needs “correcting.” Really? I’ve seen many, many instances of the absolute opposite.

    Until we, as a society, stop teaching categories of students (otherwise known as segregation) instead of individual students we will remain mired in an antiquated perspective that stunts our country’s moral growth.

    Children are children. Teach them. Period.

    Ellen M. Chambers, MBA
    Special Education Activist

  6. JR says:

    The 1975 special ed act did not promise to pay for 40% of the cost of special education. It promised to pay 40% of the EXCESS costs of special ed or 40% of the costs over the normal amount spent on all students.

  7. Maria Cruz says:

    Marialia says: I have worked in sheltered workshops for over 30 years. When you work with this amazing population you want the best that life has to offer. If they are able to obtain and succeed in supported employment it is also our shared success but many clients have medical, behavioral, and just certain daily concerns that are not acceptable in the work force nor enough community supports to help them sustain long term employment. An example is, how do so called “normal” people look at someone with special needs riding the bus, they are not accepted and often not accepted in the work force or able to maintain hours and the stress of a job. I have worked at one workshop 23 years and our population know they are loved, accepted for who they are, counseled when needed, and exist in an environment that accepts them as they are and they are thriving. Where can you go to work everyday and someone tells you that they love you and you count.

  8. Shelly says:

    Sue Keller, your statement dating March 7th is so very true. I am a mother of a twice exceptional learner and have been a school counselor for the last 18 years. I also taught drop out prevention in a self contained class room years ago. After 3 years of using the same reading program with my child only to show right there on the graph (that I had to request by attorney) that he was actually regressing in fluency, I begged the district for which I work, to change his reading program. I was denied. I researched FAPE and was profoundly saddened that it actually meant nothing in our case. The A in FAPE stands for appropriate. Having a reading fluency rate in the 1st percentile for 3 years in a row doesn’t seem appropriate at all for a child whose vocabulary and comprehension are in the 90 and 85th percentiles respectively . But they said it was appropriate and that my child was receiving adequate services….so I presume they wanted me to believe that.

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