April 11, 2019

Sen. Van Hollen, Rep. Lee introduce Bicameral Bill to Invest in Our Students and Fully Fund Title I, Special Education

Today U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and U.S. Representative Susie Lee (D-Nev.) introduced the Keep Our Promise to America’s Children and Teachers (PACT) Act, which would put Congress on a fiscally-responsible path to meet its obligation to fully fund Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) on a mandatory basis over the next 10 years. 

“Every child in our country deserves access to a quality education. But for too long, Congress has fallen short on our promise to fully invest in our students and our schools,” said Senator Van Hollen. “It’s time we hold up our part of the bargain and provide full funding for Title I and IDEA. I urge the Congress to take up this legislation immediately to ensure our students have the resources they need to succeed, no matter what zip code they live in. We can no longer just pay lip service to education — we must make good on our promise to students, parents, and teachers across the country.”

“Quality education is the great equalizer. Yet, we must provide the resources to guarantee that ALL students have an equal chance at getting a quality education,” said Rep. Susie Lee. “I’m introducing the Keep Our PACT Act to make sure that we keep the promise of equity in education by fully funding Title I and IDEA. This funding supports our most at-risk youth - those living in poverty and those who are differently abled. Instead of relying on second chances, it’s time we give all children a good first chance to succeed.”

Title I, which gives assistance to America’s highest-need schools, is a critical tool to ensure that every child, no matter the zip code, has access to a quality education. However, it has been deeply underfunded, shortchanging our most vulnerable students living in poverty. According to the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, the Title I formula was underfunded by $347 billion from 2005-2017. Maryland alone was shortchanged by $4.7 billion. Similarly, IDEA calls on the federal government to fund 40 percent of the cost of special education, but Congress has never fully funded the law. Currently, IDEA state grants are funded at just 14.7 percent. In the state of Maryland, IDEA was underfunded by $316 million in 2017 alone and by nearly $3.5 billion between 2005 and 2017.

In addition to Senator Van Hollen, in the Senate this legislation is supported by Senators Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).  

In addition to Representative Lee, in the House the bill is supported by Representatives Nydia Velasquez (D-N.Y.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.), David Trone (D-Md.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.), Lori Trahan (D-Mass.), Eleanor Norton (D-D.C.), Annie Kuster (D-N.H.), Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.), Steven Horsford (D-Nev.), James McGovern (D-Mass.), Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio).

This legislation has strong support from education and advocacy organizations.

All students deserve the opportunity for a great public education that meets their needs and opens doors for them regardless of the ZIP code in which they live,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “The Keep Our Promise to America’s Children and Teachers Act will make students—especially students with disabilities as well as our most vulnerable students—a funding and investment priority. As the nation continues to face a growing teacher shortage and we continue to face growing wealth and income inequality, now is the time for Congress to invest responsibly to secure the futures of our nation’s public school students.”

"More than forty years ago, Congress made a commitment to help level the playing field and educate every kid in this country, regardless of their ability, what kind of neighborhood they live in, and the color of their skin. But in the richest country in America, we have fallen far short of that promise, chronically underfunding IDEA and Title I, the very programs that are geared to strengthening supports for children with disabilities and making opportunities available for all children, especially those who live in poverty-stricken communities who need them most. In public schools across America, resources are scarce for special education and disability assistance, guidance counselors, mental health services, school nurses, librarians and teaching assistants. The challenges facing our public schools cost money: the resources to help kids succeed are there, we just have to prioritize them,” said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.

“The Keep Our PACT Act responds to needs of students most impact by funding inequity and racial and economic injustice. After decades of the chronic underfunding that has resulted in hundreds of billions lost for students who need it most, the Keep Our PACT Act moves us closer to education equity,” said Jay Travis of the Alliance to Reclaim our Schools.

"The Keep Our PACT Act is a crucial down payment on 50 years of federal neglect, compounded by the last 30 years of starvation of schools and legalized theft from disadvantaged and special needs students through privatization," said Jitu Brown, Director of the Journey for Justice Alliance. "Fully funding Title I and IDEA can begin to turn the tide for our neediest students who we have failed to invest in for far too long. When will we have zero tolerance for inequity?”

“Congress has yet to live up to its promise fully fund Title I and IDEA to ensure that our nation’s students have the supports they need to succeed in school,” said Jim Accomando, president of National PTA, the nation’s oldest and largest child advocacy association. “National PTA is proud to support Senator Chris Van Hollen’s Keep Our PACT Act, which will put both programs on a path to full funding and provide the opportunity for all students to reach their full potential.

“NSBA applauds Senator Van Hollen’s legislation, the ‘Keep Our Promise to America’s Children and Teachers Act.’ This legislation is important to our nation’s public school students and districts, and vital to addressing equity in education,” stated Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director and CEO of the National School Boards Association. “The Keep Our PACT Act would authorize the federal resources our school districts and communities need as they continue the work to provide a high-quality education to our students. Our members have prioritized the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Title I programs that are effective in helping raise student achievement in many public schools, and we urge Congress’ swift passage of the Keep Our PACT Act.”

“Public education in our country is severely underfunded – leaving many students without the resources they need to succeed. The Keep our Pact Act would finally ensure Congress is fulfilling its obligation to our students by fully funding IDEA and Title I. We greatly appreciate Senator Van Hollen and Representative Lee’s efforts on this issue, and we ask Congress to take up this legislation immediately,” said Maryland State Education Association President Cheryl Bost.

“AFT-MD is proud to support the Keep Our Promise to America’s Children and Teachers (PACT) Act, which will work congruently to ensure that federal funding for IDEA and Title I are fulfilled.  Senator Van Hollen’s Act will be vital for equipping educators and students in Baltimore City with the tools they need to create the learning and working environment they deserve. It is essential for the future of Baltimore City, and the country, that we work collectively to pass this legislation,” said Marietta English, President, American Federation of Teachers-Maryland.

“Maryland PTA supports the Keep Our PACT Act to require full funding of part A of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act because it promotes a comprehensive approach to preserve educational programs, policies and procedures that provide equal educational opportunities for all students regardless of race, gender, national origin, language, religion, age, disability, or sexual orientation. The Keep Our PACT Act embraces the idea of schools focusing on what children know and are able to do and being held accountable for ensuring that all children succeed as measured by engaged parents, well trained instructors and high-quality academic assessments. Lastly, to fully fund this Act is to maintain a priority in recognizing the special needs of underserved populations including children with disabilities, limited English proficient children, homeless children, migrant children, gifted and talented children, and undocumented children in our public schools in an effort to fulfill the mission of having every child reach their full potential,” said Maryland Parent Teacher Association President Latisha Corey.

"The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) recognizes and appreciates Senator Van Hollen's unwavering commitment to fully fund Title I and IDEA. Children and youth with disabilities benefit from the services provided by both of these programs. CEC urges Congress to support and pass the Keep Our PACT Act to ensure that children and youth with disabilities receive the guarantee of a free appropriate public education," said Deborah A. Ziegler, Director Policy and Advocacy, Council for Exceptional Children.

“Students with intellectual emotional and physical disabilities, and students from poverty simply have more challenges to overcome to reach the high standards we hold to for all students and to help them reach their greatest potential. As more students are identified for special services and budgets flatline, principals stretch each dollar ever more tightly often at the expense of schoolwide progress. Congress recognized that reality in Title I of ESSA and in IDEA, but Congress has consistently failed to meet even half of its financial obligation to fulfill those students’ needs. The Keep Out PACT Act puts Congress on a path to finally fulfilling its obligation. We are grateful to the Senate sponsors of this bill for standing up for our nation’s most vulnerable students,” said National Association of Secondary School Principals Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti.

“Our organization seeks to ensure all young people are ready for college, work and life. We need to invest in helping children with special needs and living in low income communities reach their potential, so that we as a country can reach our potential,” said Thaddeus Ferber Forum for Youth Investment Executive Vice President.