July 10, 2023

Van Hollen, Huffman Introduce Bill to Fully Fund Special Education

Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and U.S. Representative Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) introduced the IDEA Full Funding Act. This legislation would finally ensure Congress fulfills its commitment to fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In 1975, Congress passed IDEA to ensure that every child with a disability has access to educational opportunity. This law was a historic step forward, but since its passage Congress has failed to provide the funding it promised. Senator Van Hollen has been leading this push to fully fund IDEA since 2005.

Under IDEA, the federal government committed to pay 40 percent of the average per pupil expenditure for special education. However, that pledge has never been met, and current funding is at less than 13 percent. According to the Congressional Research Service, the IDEA shortfall in the 2021-2022 school year nationwide was $23.92 billion. Under full funding, Maryland alone would have received $675 million – a gap of $407.7 million. The IDEA Full Funding Act would require regular, mandatory increases in IDEA spending to finally meet our obligation to America’s children and schools. It is cosponsored by more than 20 Senators and over 60 House members. Text of the IDEA Full Funding Act can be viewed here.

“Providing our children equal access to a quality education helps ensure every student has a fair shot at success. But for decades the federal government has fallen short of its funding commitment to IDEA – leaving students with disabilities at a disadvantage year after year. Our bill will put us on a path to honor our promise to students with disabilities and ensure they receive the first-rate education they deserve. It will also better ensure that school systems have sufficient resources to meet the needs of all their students,” said Senator Van Hollen.

“In recent years, thanks to the hard work of the coalition we've built around this bill, we’ve been able to make incremental increases in funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act through the annual appropriations process. I’m proud of the progress we’ve made, but the government has never lived up to the full promise of IDEA,” said Rep. Huffman. “Every single student – regardless of race, socioeconomic status, disability, you name it – deserves a full, quality education. The chronic underfunding creates an unfair burden on students, teachers, families, and schools. Our bill holds up Congress’ end of the bargain to fully fund special education services on a permanent basis and ensure all students have the chance to succeed.”

This legislation is supported a broad and diverse group of over 60 national organizations, including by AASA – The School Superintendent Association, American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Council for Exceptional Children, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), National Center for Learning Disabilities, National Education Association.

It is also supported by the following Maryland-based organizations: AFT-MD, Baltimore City Public Schools, Maryland Association of Boards of Education, Maryland Association of Elementary School Principals, Maryland Association of Secondary School Principals, Maryland State Education Association, and the Public School Superintendents’ Association of Maryland.

“The federal government made a promise to students with disabilities with IDEA: to make sure public schools are equipped to tailor their education and meet their needs. But we have failed to fully fund those needed supports and investments so that every child—particularly those with disabilities—can learn basic skills, realize their potential and access the support they need in a safe and welcoming school environment. In a country that promises to educate every child, we cannot shortchange the kids who need us most. So, as Congress begins the annual appropriations process constrained by spending caps, the IDEA Full Funding Act cannot get short shrift, and we thank Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Rep. Jared Huffman and the bill’s other sponsors for their leadership in advocating for equitable funding for this important bill,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten.

“The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is central to the federal role in K12 education and represents a critical commitment to help level the playing field for historically disadvantaged populations, students with disabilities. When Congress passed the historic IDEA and opened the doors of educational opportunity to all students, regardless of ability, it recognized it would come at a cost and committed to providing 40% of the additional cost associated with educating these students. Congress has constantly failed to reach this commitment, and is in fact below 13%—less than half of its commitment—in the current fiscal year. For that reason, AASA is proud to endorse the IDEA Full Funding Act, being introduced in both the House and Senate this week, for holding Congress accountable and creating a clear path and plan of action,” said Dr. David R. Schuler, Executive Director, AASA, The School Superintendents Association.

“On behalf of the education professionals who work with infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities I applaud Senator Van Hollen and Representative Huffman for their steadfast leadership to fully fund IDEA,” said Chad Rummel, Executive Director, Council for Exceptional Children. “This bill would correct years of underfunding and enable the next generation of young people to reach their full potential.”

“It's been nearly 50 years since Congress passed IDEA, and the need to fully fund it is imperative now more than ever,” said Dr. Jacqueline Rodriguez, CEO, National Center for Learning Disabilities. “We applaud Senator Chris Van Hollen and Representative Jared Huffman for taking the necessary steps toward more equitable funding by reintroducing the IDEA Full Funding Act. The time is now — we must fulfill our pledge to fund the education of students with disabilities, which includes approximately 2.3 million students with specific learning disabilities.”

“We are proud to once again endorse the IDEA Full Funding Act” said Marc Egan, Director of Government Relations at the National Education Association (NEA). “The IDEA Full Funding Act ensures that no matter the zip code, students with disabilities have equal access to a well-rounded, high-quality public education. We must do right by our children and Congress should fulfill its pledge towards their education, which also strengthens our nation. We commend Senator Van Hollen and Congressman Huffman for their leadership in addressing the chronic underfunding of IDEA.” 

“School boards and educators are committed to providing students with disabilities and their families the supports they need to become working, contributing, engaging members of society,” said Verjeana McCotter-Jacobs, Executive Director and CEO of the National School Boards Association (NSBA). “However, for far too long the federal government has failed to meet its IDEA funding commitment. The federal government must begin providing the level of dedicated annual funding for students with disabilities commensurate not only with IDEA’s vision and goals, but also with our moral commitment to these vitally important students and their families. NSBA strongly supports the IDEA Full Funding Act, which will establish a clear path towards fully achieving the federal share of resources needed to address the unique needs of our students with disabilities. We thank Senator Van Hollen and Representative Huffman for their leadership on this issue and we appreciate the bipartisan support from the bill’s many co-sponsors.”

“City Schools recognizes the need to ensure all students, especially the most vulnerable, access to the robust educational opportunities they deserve. Fully funding IDEA and ensuring that students are a clear priority in the federal budget will provide much-needed resources for urban school districts like Baltimore City, which serve significant portions of students requiring special education services and currently experience severe shortfalls amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars annually,” said Dr. Sonja Santelises, CEO, Baltimore City Public Schools. 

“AFT-Maryland is committed to the education of every Maryland student. We are grateful to Sen. Chris Van Hollen for his continued support of Maryland's students. This legislation is necessary now more than ever as Maryland moves full speed ahead with the implementation of the Blueprint for Maryland's Future, a robust education plan that holds transformational potential for all Maryland students. The IDEA Full Funding Act provides Maryland education professionals and their students with the tools necessary to realize the potential of transformational education,” said Kenya Campbell, President, AFT-Maryland.

“For decades, the federal government has failed to live up to its promise to fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Educators in Maryland feel the impacts of this chronic underinvestment while working hard to deliver for our students every day. MSEA proudly supports the IDEA Full Funding Act and urges Congress to fulfill its commitment to our school communities,” said Cheryl Bost, President, Maryland State Education Association.

The legislation is cosponsored in the Senate by Senators Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), John Fetterman (D-Pa.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

“The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) helped remove barriers to special education, but there is more work to do. Schools in Maryland and nationwide require additional investment to provide the full range of services needed to improve access and inclusivity for students with disabilities,” said Senator Cardin. “Fully funding the IDEA will help our schools meet the needs of students most in need and underscores our commitment to providing a quality education for every child.”

“Children with disabilities in Nevada and across the country deserve equal access to a quality public education, and we need to make sure our schools get the federal support they need for special education programs,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “This legislation will provide Nevada students in need of special education and their families with access to critical services and support in public schools across our state.”

“Our nation’s children are our future, and every child should have access to high-quality education that meets their individual needs. That’s why it’s critical that we uphold our commitment and properly fund IDEA to bolster programs that serve students with disabilities,” said Senator Durbin. “I’m signing on to the IDEA Full Funding Act to ensure schools have the resources they need to support every student.”

“The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is underfunded, leaving many students with disabilities behind. We’ve got to fully fund the IDEA to help schools offer the special education, services, and supports that students need to succeed. Every child deserves a high-quality education,” said Senator Kaine.

“It’s critical that students with disabilities can access a free appropriate public education,” said Senator Luján. “When Congress passed IDEA, we promised to cover 40% of the extra cost of special education. For over 40 years, the federal government has failed to fund its fair share of the IDEA Act, leaving room for gaps in education. That’s why I’m proud to join my colleagues in reintroducing this bipartisan legislation to fully fund IDEA for students with disabilities.”

“It’s been nearly half a century since the federal government enshrined into law the right for students with disabilities to access free, quality public education. This law is essential for ensuring every student has the opportunity to fulfill their dreams and seek new opportunities, yet Congress has still not provided the full funding necessary to guarantee that all students are not only integrated into our education system, but flourish in it,” said Senator Markey. “We must pass the IDEA Full Funding Act and uphold our promise to disabled students.”

“A good quality education is about opening the doors of opportunity for every child, including those with learning disabilities,” said Senator Menendez. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this bicameral legislation to ensure students with disabilities have access to high-quality, well-funded special education regardless of their zip code. This bill will help level the playing field for students and Congress should work towards its swift passage.”

“For too long, Congress has faltered on its promise to support students with disabilities. The IDEA Full Funding Act upholds our commitment and works to close opportunity gaps in our education system so that every student has a chance to pursue their dreams. All students, regardless of ability, deserve access to a quality education. This investment serves our students, supports our educators, and strengthens our economic future.” said Senator Padilla.

“It is long past time Congress fulfilled its commitment to fully fund special education,” said Senator Shaheen. “I’m proud to join this effort to ensure Congress finally meets its promise to help give every student across New Hampshire and the nation the educational opportunities they deserve.”

“I started my career as a public school special education teacher, and I understand just how important it is for students with disabilities to have the resources and support they need to succeed in our education system,” said Senator Warren. “That’s why I am glad to be partnering with Senator Van Hollen to fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).”

“Every child in Oregon and nationwide should have access to a high quality education,” Senator Wyden said. “It’s past time Congress fulfill its commitment to America’s children and fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act so that every school has the individual education plans, educators and support staff it needs.”

The legislation is co-led in the House by Representatives The bill is co-led in the House by Representatives Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-Pa.), Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), and Pete Stauber (R-Minn.).Additional cosponsors in the House include Representatives Jake Auchincloss (D-Mass.), Becca Balint (D-Vt.), Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.), Ami Bera, M.D. (D-Calif.), Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), Salud O. Carbajal (D-Calif.), Andre Carson (D-Ind.), Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Angie Craig (D-Minn.), Jasmine Crockett (D-Texas), Jason Crow (D-Colo.), Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.), Lois Frankel (D-Fla.), John Garamendi (D-Calif.), Sylvia R. Garcia (D-Texas), Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.), Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Josh Harder (D-Calif.), Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), Robin L. Kelly (D-Ill.), Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), Andy Kim (D-N.J.), Anne McLane Kuster (D-N.H.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.), Luch McBath (D-Ga.), Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), James P. McGovern (D-Mass.), Marcus J. Molinaro (R-N.Y.), Joseph D. Morelle (D-N.Y.), Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.), Donald M. Payne, Jr. (D-N.J.), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-Mariana Islands), Linda T. Sanchez (D-Calif.), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.), Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), Terri Sewell (D-Ala.), Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), Melanie Stansbury (D-N.M.), Haley Stevens (D-Mich.), Marilyn Strickland (D-Wash.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), and Paul D. Tonko (D-N.Y.).

“More than 40 years ago, the federal government committed to sharing the cost of education with states for individuals with special needs. However, the federal portion of these funds remains drastically lower than the original commitment, placing budgetary challenges before local school districts who already face inflationary pressures and workforce shortages” said Rep. Glenn Thompson. “The IDEA Full Funding Act reaffirms our promise and fully funds IDEA over the next 10 years. This worthy investment will help schools better prepare students with disabilities for future employment and an opportunity for independent living.”

“For years I’ve joined parents, teachers, and education advocates from across Colorado in calling on the Congress to increase IDEA funding, so that the federal government can follow through on its promise to fully fund this essential program and support students with disabilities. Today, we are once again asking our colleagues to join us in the fight to give every student the chance to succeed,” said Rep. Neguse.

“Children with disabilities deserve full access to a quality education, and it is long past time for Congress to fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA),” said Rep. Fitzpatrick. “I am proud to lead this bipartisan, bicameral legislation to ensure that the best possible education is available to our children in Bucks and Montgomery Counties, as well as communities across the country,” said Congressman Fitzpatrick. 

“Every student, no matter their circumstance, should be afforded the opportunity to succeed. Unfortunately, the federal government is not meeting its funding obligation to students who need special education services, leaving many students academically disadvantaged. As the father of a child with special needs, I am committed to ensuring Congress continues to take steps every year towards fulfilling its promise to our special needs students and their parents, so our educators are better equipped to meet the needs of every student,” said Rep. Stauber.

“Every American student deserves access to a high-quality, public education. The IDEA Full Funding Act is an unfunded mandate designed to provide students with disabilities, and their educators, the resources they need to succeed. It’s time to fulfill a promise long unkept, relieve the burden on local districts, and ensure our public schools are resourced to serve students of all backgrounds and abilities,” said Rep. Phillips.

“As the mother of two children who benefited from special education programs, the wife of an educator and the daughter of a teacher – I know firsthand the importance of giving every student the resources they need and the education they deserve. I’ll keep fighting to fully fund special education in Minnesota and nationwide and I’m proud of our bipartisan work to pass the Individuals with Disabilities Education Full Funding Act,” said Rep. Craig.

The bill is also supported by the: American Academy of Pediatrics, American Music Therapy Association, American Occupational Therapy Association, American Physical Therapy Association, American Printing House for the Blind, American Psychological Association Services, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, American Therapeutic Recreation Association, Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA), Association of CA School Administrators, Association of Educational Service Agencies, Association of People Supporting Employment First (APSE), Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO), Association of University Centers of Disabilities, Autism Society of America, Autistic People of Color Fund (APOC), Autism Self-Advocacy Network, Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, CA Small School Districts' Association, California County Superintendents, California School Boards Association, CAST, Center for Learner Equity, Coalition for Adequate Funding for Special Education (California), CommunicationFIRST, Council for Learning Disabilities, Council of Administrators of Special Education, Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR), Council of Administrators of Special Education, Council of the Great City Schools, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, Division for Early Childhood of the CEC, Division of Learning Disabilities - Council for Exceptional Children, Future Robotics, Higher Education Consortium for Special Education (HECSE),  IDEA Infants and Toddlers Coordinators Association (ITCA), Learning Disabilities Association of America, Los Angeles Unified School District, Moms of Black and Brown Children, National Association for Music Education, National Association for Pupil Transportation, National Association of ESEA State Program Administrators, National Association of School Boards, National Association of School Nurses, National Association of School Psychologists, National Association of State Directors of Special Education, National Consortium for Physical Education for Individuals with Disabilities (NCPEID), National Disability Rights Network(NDRN), National Down Syndrome Congress, National Down Syndrome Society, National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium, National Rural Education Association, National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium, National School Boards Association, Perkins School for the Blind, San Diego Unified School District, School Social Work Association of America, TASH, Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children (TED), The Advocacy Institute, The Arc of the United States, and The Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies.