There may be two different bills on the table designed to fully fund special education when Congress returns this fall if one lawmaker follows through on plans announced this week.

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo. says he intends to introduce legislation in September to fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

The news comes just a month after Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, introduced a similar bill. Both call for the federal government to meet its obligation to pay 40 percent of the cost of educating students with disabilities, but they differ in how they would come up with the money.

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Under Polis’ proposal, the funds would come from “cutting wasteful and unnecessary Pentagon defense programs,” according to a statement from the congressman’s office. In doing so, Polis says so-called full funding of IDEA would be achieved over the next five years.

Harkin’s bill, however, relies on doubling the tax on cigarettes and small cigars in order to reach full funding by 2021.

The federal government initially committed to cover 40 percent of IDEA costs in 1975 when the landmark special education law was first enacted. But the obligation was never met and today Congress contributes just 16.1 percent of IDEA spending, with states and school districts paying the rest.

“This legislation keeps our promise to special education students and families and provides much needed fiscal relief to cash-strapped states and local school districts,” Polis said of his plan. “Rather than wasting taxpayer dollars on costly and ineffective defense programs, this legislation reinvests in America’s children and our economy.”

Whether or not either the Harkin or Polis bills will get much attention this fall is unclear, however. Previous efforts in Congress to fully fund IDEA have failed to gain much traction.

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