November 16, 2021

Van Hollen, Huffman Reintroduce Bicameral Legislation to Fully Fund Special Education

Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Representative Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) reintroduced the IDEA Full Funding Act, bipartisan, bicameral legislation to finally ensure Congress' 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 promised under this bill.                                                                

Under the 1975 IDEA legislation, 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 just 15.7 percent. The IDEA Full Funding Act would require regular increases in IDEA spending to finally meet our commitment to America's children and schools. Text of the IDEA Full Funding Act can be found here.

“Increasing direct support for our public schools and students with disabilities has long been one of my top priorities. That’s why I fought to include more funding for IDEA as part of the American Rescue Plan. But to truly fulfill the promises made under IDEA, we’ve got to do more. This legislation will ensure Congress finally meets its obligation to fully fund IDEA to help provide every American student with a quality education,” said Senator Van Hollen who has helped lead legislation to fully fund IDEA since his time in the House of Representatives.  

According to the National Education Association, the IDEA shortfall last year nationwide was $23.58 billion. Under full funding, Maryland alone would have received $568.1 million – a gap of $350.7 million.

The legislation is cosponsored in the Senate by Senators Jon Tester, Maggie Hassan, Bob Casey, Tina Smith, Mazie Hirono, Jack Reed, Richard Blumenthal, Tim Kaine, Dick Durbin, Ben Cardin, Sherrod Brown, Catherine Cortez Masto, Cory Booker, Ben Ray Lujan, Elizabeth Warren, Jeanne Shaheen, Ed Markey, Tammy Baldwin, Ron Wyden, Kirsten Gillibrand, Debbie Stabenow, Alex Padilla, Robert Menendez, Amy Klobuchar, Chris Murphy, and Gary Peters.  

“Thanks to President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, schools have received some desperately needed funding to support education for students with disabilities. But Congress still has not fulfilled its promise to fully fund IDEA – leaving many students to fall by the wayside,” said Rep. Huffman. “This gap in funding puts undue pressure on K-12 public schools to try to do more with less, resulting in cuts to critical parts of education like class sizes, art programs, and counseling services. Every kid, with or without disability, deserves a full, quality education. Our bill holds up Congress’ end of the bargain to fully fund special education services and ensure all students have the opportunity to succeed.” 

The legislation is co-led in the House by Representatives Glenn “GT” Thompson, Kurt Schrader, John Katko, Brian Fitzpatrick, Joe Neguse, Dean Phillips, and David McKinley. It is cosponsored by Representatives James Langevin, Gerald E. Connolly, Albio Sires, Jenniffer González-Colón, Pete Stauber, Marilyn Strickland, Angie Craig, Jamie Raskin, Jahana Hayes, and Chellie Pingree.

"I got my start in public service because I wanted to make sure we built a more inclusive society for people like my son, Ben. The IDEA Act was a commitment to ensure that students with disabilities have the same educational opportunities as their peers, but for too long we have fallen short of providing this promised funding - that must change,” said Senator Hassan. “Building an inclusive society is an ongoing effort, and there is much more work that still needs to be done to make sure we are living up to our country’s values of independence and self-determination for all Americans.”

“As a former teacher, I know that public education is the great equalizer in our nation,” said Senator Tester. “Fully funding IDEA ensures that every student has access to a high quality public education and that our schools have the resources they need to support future generations.” 

“All Oregonians deserve access to a quality education that prepares them to meet challenges and have a successful future. Unfortunately, Congress has failed time and again to fully fund our share of the IDEA Act under the law, leaving our local school districts and states struggling to make up the required difference. This coalition of members has been successful over the past few years in getting more funding, but it’s not nearly enough for what’s needed,” said Rep. Schrader. “That’s why I am proud to join this bipartisan effort to pass the IDEA Full Funding Act to make sure we finally pay what we said we would. By freeing up state education dollars, our educators will be able to provide for other programs and ensure educational opportunities for all students with disabilities." 

“In America, the promise of quality public education should be extended to all children,” said Rep. Phillips.“For 40 years, students and schools have waited as Congress failed to deliver on this unfunded mandate. I urge more of my colleagues in both chambers and parties to join us in supporting the IDEA Full Funding Act to relieve financial burden from families and schools and to ensure a world class education for all students.” 

“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,” said Rep. 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.”

“It’s time for Congress to fulfill its promise to fully fund IDEA to ensure that children with disabilities have access to a quality education,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick. “I’m proud to support this long-overdue legislation which will fully fund special education services in schools across the country, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to push this bipartisan effort across the finish line.”

“Education is a top priority for West Virginia families and is critically important that every student’s individual needs are met and they have the resources and opportunities they need to succeed. I’m pleased to support the bipartisan legislation to finally fully fund the Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that was originally enacted in 1975, so that we keep the promise we made to students with special needs and their parents,” said Rep. McKinley.

“Across our district, as I sit down with teachers, school board members and education advocates, the need for increased IDEA funding is a resounding request,” said Rep. Neguse. “Full IDEA funding is essential to ensuring that students with disabilities can fully access quality education and have every opportunity to succeed. That is why I’m proud to lead on this bipartisan, bicameral initiative to ensure that the federal government holds up their end of the bargain to fully fund this program and to ensure that children with disabilities are able to live up to their full potential.”

“Many students with disabilities depend on specialized programing and instruction,” said Rep. Katko. “For this reason, I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing a bipartisan, bicameral bill that fully funds programs administered under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This effort is essential to maintaining educational opportunities for children with disabilities, and keeping Congress’s promise to educators and families across the country.”

This legislation is supported by AASA – The School Superintendent Association, American Federation of Teachers, Council of Exceptional Children, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Center for Learning Disabilities, National Education Association, National PTA and a diverse group of over 90 national organizations, including:Academy of Pediatric Physical Therapy; American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education; American Atheists; American Federation of School Administrators; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); American Music Therapy Association; American Occupational Therapy Association; American Physical Therapy Association; American Psychological Association; American Speech-Language-Hearing Association; American Therapeutic Recreation Association; ASCD; ASCD Alabama; Arizona ASCD; CA ASCD; CO ASCD; FASCD; Hawaii ASCD; Illinois ASCD; Indiana ASCD; Iowa ASCD; Massachusetts ASCD; Michigan ASCD; NMASCD; OhioASCD; Virginia ASCD; Washington State ASCD – WSASCD; Assistive Technology Industry Association; Association of Assistive Technology Act Program; Association of Educational Service Agencies; Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents; Association of People Supporting Employment First (APSE); Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO); Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD); Autism Society of America; Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law; Brain Injury Association of America; CAST; Center for Learner Equity; Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder ; Coalition for Adequate Funding for Special Education; CommunicationFIRST; Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf; Council for Learning Disabilities; Council of Administrators of Special Education; Council of Chief State School Officers; Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates; Council of the Great City Schools; Cure SMA; Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund; Division for Learning Disabilities (DLD) of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), Easterseals; EDGE Consulting Partners; Education Reform Now; Fulfill the Promise Coalition; Green Dot Public Schools ; Higher Education Consortium for Special Education; Large Countywide and Suburban District Consortium; Learning Disabilities Association of America; Madison Teachers Inc.; Madtown Mommas & Disability Advocates; Moms Of Black And Brown Children; National Alliance for Public Charter Schools; National Association for Music Education; National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities; National Association of ESEA State Program Administrators (NAESPA); National Association of Private Special Education Centers (NAPSEC); National Association of School Psychologists; National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE); National Association of State Head Injury Administrators; Center for Youth Law; National Consortium for Physical Education for Individuals with Disabilities (NCPEID); National Disability Rights Network; National Down Syndrome Congress; National Down Syndrome Society; National Indian Education Association (NIEA); National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium; National Rural Education Association; National School Boards Association; National Superintendents Roundtable; Oakland Education Association; Promote Inclusion Books; RespectAbility; ROSLA; School Social Work Association of America; Teach For America; Teach Plus; Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children ; The Advocacy Institute; The Arc of the United States; UnidosUS; Union for Reform Judaism; and United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA).

It is also supported by the following Maryland-based organizations: AFT-MDMarylandASCDMaryland Association of Boards of EducationMaryland Association of Elementary School PrincipalsMaryland Association of Secondary School Principals; and Maryland State Education Association.

“No matter their abilities or different learning needs, all students — white, Black, Brown, Indigenous, disabled or not — deserve access to a just, equitable and high-quality public education. Sadly, for decades Congress has failed to live up to the promise to fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Our country must continue to tear down the barriers that have acted as road blocks for marginalized communities, including our disabled community. We thank Senator Van Hollen and Representative Huffman for their steadfast leadership in pushing for special education to be fully funded and help our students who are most in need. The 3 million members of the National Education Association urge Congress to take swift action and fully fund IDEA legislation now,” said National Education Association (NEA) President Becky Pringle.

“We urge Congress to act now to pass the IDEA Full Funding Act and meet its obligation to fund 40 percent of the extra costs that accompany special services and provide much-needed relief to local districts,” said Ronn Nozoe, National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) CEO. “Seven million special education students across the country deserve to receive equitable education opportunities which will help them to graduate and achieve future success. NASSP is proud to support the bill and grateful to Senator Van Hollen, Representative Huffman, and other House and Senate cosponsors for reintroduction.” 

 “For decades, the federal government has failed to live up to the promise it made to students with disabilities and their families. It has failed to fully fund needed supports and investments so that every child—particularly those with disabilities—can be safe and feel welcome at school and have the necessary academic resources. We cannot shortchange the kids who need us most. Thankfully, the Biden administration has proposed a significant down payment on full funding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Congress can act now so schools and students can have the funding they need to help them recover from the consequences of the pandemic. The IDEA Full Funding Act tells our students with disabilities that we see them and they matter. We thank Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Rep. Jared Huffman and the bill’s other sponsors for their leadership in making the government’s promise a reality,” said Randi Weingarten, AFT President.

"AASA remains committed to full funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), urges Congress to take immediate action to meet its chronically underfunded commitment, and more specifically, thanks Senator Van Hollen and Representative Huffman for their continued leadership on this issue and their commitment to introducing the IDEA Full Funding legislation each Congress. Equity is at the heart of our work at AASA, as well as at the heart of the federal role in K-12 education. The premier federal formula programs supporting K-12—both Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Title I and IDEA—are the embodiment of equity, programs designed to help level the playing field for historically disadvantaged students, including those in poverty and those with disabilities. For every dollar by which the federal government falls short of its commitment, a school district is left to pay more than their fair share. And on the heels of the COVID pandemic, the idea of local school districts being left with less funding for everything from teacher pay and class size to social/emotional learning and learning recovery, and everything in between, is an unacceptable reality. The IDEA Full Funding Act is a critical first step and the most significant thing Congress can do to honor their commitment to support not only students with disabilities, but all students in K-12 schools," said Daniel A. Domenech, AASA Executive Director.

“We have never provided adequate resources for schools and educators to support students with disabilities. The pandemic has only exacerbated the longstanding injustices our community faces. It’s time to act now, ” said Lindsay E. Jones, National Center for Learning Disabilities President and CEO. “We thank these Members of Congress for their leadership and urge swift action so that the commitment to students with disabilities and their families is finally met.”

"I am grateful to Senator Van Hollen and Representative Huffman for their ongoing and tireless commitment to the education of individuals with disabilities," said Dennis Cavitt, Ed.D., Council for Exceptional Children President. "Fully funding IDEA would provide districts with the resources needed to ensure all children and youth with disabilities receive a free and appropriate public education, unlocking the full potential of the law." 

"AFT-Maryland is committed to the education of every Maryland student. We are grateful to Sen. Van Hollen for his continued support of Maryland's children and his commitment to the IDEA Full Funding Act is evidence of that. This legislation allows education professionals to meet the unique educational needs of every Maryland student at an early age. AFT-MD enthusiastically supports this bill." said Kenya Campbell, AFT-Maryland President.

“Investing in education for students with disabilities is crucial to their growth and success. This legislation will help ensure all students receive the education they deserve, and we deeply appreciate Senator Van Hollen’s efforts to address this issue. MSEA is proud to support this bill that will support the thousands of students in Maryland receiving special education services – and millions more across the nation – to help ensure that they receive comprehensive, high-quality education. We urge Congress to take up this much-needed bill immediately,” said Cheryl Bost, Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) President.