Obama Budget Leaves Special Educators ‘Disheartened’
The federal budget proposed by President Barack Obama last week included $250 million in new special education funds, but some advocates say that’s not enough.
The president’s budget proposal includes $11.8 billion for special education funding to the states, $250 million more than in 2010. That works out to an average of $1,750 for each of the country’s 6.7 million special education students.
But despite the increase, the federal contribution toward the cost of special education would remain steady at about 17 percent. And that’s a problem for special educators who want the president to stick to his campaign promise of fully funding the program.
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“We are disheartened to see the president did not use this opportunity to fulfill his campaign commitment to fully fund special education and early intervention programs,” Deborah Ziegler of the Council for Exceptional Children, which represents 35,000 special educators, wrote in a statement. “Another opportunity to make progress toward fully funding IDEA has, sadly, been missed.”
Congress committed to funding 40 percent of the cost of educating students with disabilities when the practice was mandated in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, originally passed in 1975. States and school districts were expected to pick up the rest of the tab.
The 40 percent threshold is considered full funding. However, the federal government has never met that goal, instead traditionally providing for less than 20 percent of the cost of educating students with special needs.
The slight increase in special education funding for 2011 comes amid a budget proposal that included a three-year spending freeze on many government programs.