Despite a heavy emphasis on education in the president’s budget proposal this week, advocates are worried that students with disabilities are being left out.

Funding for special education would remain largely flat under President Barack Obama’s proposed budget for 2013 that was released Monday.

Meanwhile, money for new programs like Race to the Top — a competitive grant program that awards money to states that commit to reform models — would grow dramatically.

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And that has some advocates concerned.

“In this context, level funding is a cut,” said Lindsay Jones, senior director for policy and advocacy at the Council for Exceptional Children, which lobbies on behalf of special educators.

School districts are already reeling from the loss of stimulus dollars and reduced state and local funding, Jones said, not to mention inflation. At the same time, districts are seeing more students with diagnoses like autism that incur a high level of need and significant expense.

“It’s difficult to see so much investment in competitive grants when there’s so much need in foundational programs like IDEA, so we’re disappointed,” Jones said.

There was one bright spot, however, for special education. Obama proposed an additional $20 million for early intervention services for children with disabilities in their first years of life.

The budget plan reflects Obama’s priorities for federal spending for the 2013 fiscal year, which will begin in October. However, much like last year, the president’s proposal is likely to face an uphill battle in Congress, which must approve any final spending plan.

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