April 19, 2023

Van Hollen, Lee Introduce Bill to Fully Fund Title I, Special Education

Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Congresswoman Susie Lee (D-Nev.) introduced their Keep Our Promise to America’s Children and Teachers (PACT) Act, legislation to put Congress on a fiscally responsible path to fully fund Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) on a mandatory basis. Van Hollen has introduced the Keep our PACT Act every term he has served in Congress. Van Hollen and Lee were joined in introducing the legislation by Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Bernie Sanders, (I-Vt.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.).

“Keeping the American promise of equal opportunity for all means ensuring every child has access to a first-rate education. But too many students have been left behind as a result of the federal government shortchanging Title I and IDEA. The Keep Our PACT Act is about upholding our end of the bargain to make the needed investments in education for underserved communities and students with disabilities,” said Senator Van Hollen.

“Education is the key to opportunity, which is why I’ve spent my career working to help Nevada students achieve their highest potential,” said Congresswoman Lee. “Fully funding IDEA and Title I will provide school districts across the country, including Clark County, with the resources they need to strengthen opportunities for all students, regardless of the extra needs they have or what zip code they live in. That’s why I’m joining Senator Van Hollen to introduce this legislation to deliver on Title I’s and IDEA’s promise, fully fund our most vulnerable schools, and refocus the conversation in Washington on how we can help kids and teachers instead of dragging politics into the classroom.”

Title I, which gives assistance to America’s highest-need schools, is a critical tool to ensure that every child, no matter their zip code, has access to a quality education. However, it has been deeply underfunded, disadvantaging the most vulnerable students living in poverty. According to the National Education Association, the Title I funding gap for school year 2020-2021 was $30.6 billion. Maryland alone was shortchanged by $467.9 million.

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. According to the National Education Association, IDEA state grants are funded at less than 14 percent. In the state of Maryland, IDEA was underfunded by $407.7 million in FY2021 alone.

The Keep Our PACT Act would create a 10-year mandatory glide path to fully fund both Title I and IDEA, ensuring that education is a priority in the federal budget. It is supported by education, civil rights, and disability rights organizations nationwide, including the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), National Education Association (NEA), National Urban League, Council for Exceptional Children, Council of the Great City Schools, Journey for Justice Alliance, National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), National Center for Learning Disabilities, National Disability Rights Network, UnidosUS, National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), and National PTA. Maryland-based organizations that have endorsed this legislation include the Maryland State Education Association (MSEA), Public School Superintendents Association of Maryland (PSSAM), Maryland Association of Elementary School Principals (MAESP), AFT-Maryland, and Free State PTA.

Bill text is available here.

“In America we believe that every student in this country deserves opportunity regardless of their family’s income, their ZIP code, or their abilities. That is the promise of public education. To deliver on the promise we must resource the promise – which means addressing the historic underfunding for kids who are low income or who have special needs.  Educators are putting in their all to help students thrive, but they need help. The Keep Our Promise to America's Children and Teachers (Keep Our PACT) Act would put us on a path to fully funding IDEA and Title I. Let’s make sure every school and every student have the supports they need to do well, whether that’s extra time for tests, one-on-one attention with specialists, or other academic, social and emotional supports that meet the needs of all kids. We thank Sen. Chris Van Hollen and Rep. Susie Lee for introducing this key equity measure,” said Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers.

“Ensuring schools and communities have equitable access to resources to provide high quality learning, no matter where they are located, is a matter of justice,” said Marc H. Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League. “Passage of the Keep Our PACT Act would fully fund Title I and IDEA, two indispensable federal education funding mechanisms, and move us toward this goal.”

“We are proud to once again endorse the Keep Our Promise to America’s Children’s Act which fully funds the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Part A of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act,” said Marc Egan, Director of Government Relations, National Education Association (NEA). The Keep Our PACT Act ensures that no matter the zip code, disadvantaged and student with disabilities have equal access to a well-rounded, high-quality public education. We must do right by our children and invest in their education which also strengthens our nation.”

“I commend Senator Chris Van Hollen and Representative Susie Lee for introducing the Keep Our PACT Act and for their sustained commitment to children and youth with disabilities,” said Chad Rummel, executive director of the Council for Exceptional Children. “This legislation signals that Congress is serious about keeping its promise to share the cost of supporting students with disabilities. Fully funding IDEA, a Federal civil rights law designed to ensure educational opportunity for students with disabilities, is an investment in our nation's students and the future.” 

“Passing the Keep Our PACT Act would infuse our schools with funds educators and kids need to thrive,” said NASSP CEO Ronn Nozoe. “With increased investment in programs like Title I and IDEA, we can provide our most vulnerable students the boost they need to succeed, breaking down barriers and giving every child the chance to shine. School leaders are ready to work with Congress to get this done.”

“The National Center for Learning Disabilities strongly believes that Congress must keep their pact made nearly 50 years ago to fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Our nation’s schools need resources to provide a high-quality education for every child being served by IDEA and the federal government must make strides in fulfilling their pledge” says Dr. Jacqueline Rodriguez, CEO of the National Center for Learning Disabilities. “We commend Senator Van Hollen and Representative Susie Lee for their leadership and addressing the chronic underfunding of IDEA and Title I.”

“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 Anna King, President of National PTA, the nation’s oldest and largest child advocacy association. “National PTA is proud to support Senator Chris Van Hollen’s and Representative Susie Lee’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.”

“As Maryland implements its plan for historic investments in our students and schools, it is crucial to have a partner in the federal government. For far too long federal funding to support public education, especially special education needs, has been sorely underfunded. The Keep Our PACT Act will support our efforts to realize the goals of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future and fulfill a long unkept promise to students with disabilities. We applaud Senator Van Hollen for his leadership and are proud to support this legislation,” said Cheryl Bost, President of the Maryland State Education Association.

“The Public School Superintendents’ Association of Maryland is proud to endorse this critical legislation to put our nation on a path to fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Title I. Our schools strive to ensure all students receive a high-quality education, and this legislation would support those efforts by funding these crucial federal programs on a mandatory basis” says Dr. Sean Bulson, Superintendent, Harford County, Maryland and President, Public School Superintendents’ Association of Maryland. “We thank Senator Van Hollen for his leadership and addressing the needs of our schools and students across Maryland.”

In addition to Senator Van Hollen, this legislation is supported in the Senate by U.S. Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Bernie Sanders, (I-Vt.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.).

“Every student—regardless of zip code, income, or ability—deserves to have access to a high-quality education,” said Senator Padilla. “The COVID-19 pandemic only further highlighted the underlying inequities in America’s education system, and the Keep Our Promise to America’s Children and Teachers Act would help close funding gaps for students with disabilities and students in low-income neighborhoods to ensure that every student has the chance to thrive in our education system.”

“Every student deserves a shot at success, and that means access to a quality education regardless of their ability or the neighborhood they live in,” said Sen. Merkley. “Now is the time for Congress to finally address chronic underfunding for IDEA and Title I schools to strengthen supports for children with disabilities and communities struggling the most to meet the needs of their students and families.”

“It’s critical that the federal government ensures all public school students have access to a quality education,” said Senator Luján. “That’s why I’m proud to reintroduce this legislation that will fully fund Title 1 and IDEA, which help cover the costs of educating students in low-income communities and students with special needs. Nearly every K-12 public student and school in New Mexico benefit from these vital federal funds, and it is important to ensure the federal government provides adequate support so every child can reach their fullest potential.”

“When we invest in education and prioritize students across our nation—regardless of zip code—we’re really investing in their future as much as our country’s future,” said Senator Duckworth. “I’m proud to help reintroduce the Keep Our PACT Act alongside Senator Van Hollen and colleagues to help provide countless teachers, school districts and young people a fairer, more equitable shot at reaching their full potential. Every child deserves the chance to succeed.”

“This legislation would help ensure our schools work better for all students and help the country meet its obligations to students with disabilities,” said Senator Reed. “Investing in education gives every student a chance to succeed and achieve their full potential. The Keeping Our PACT Act will ensure that family income or disability does not define a child’s access to educational opportunities.”

"Title I and IDEA have been dramatically underfunded for decades. As President Biden has urged, Congress must step up and increase investments into these critical programs to enable future generations of Marylanders to thrive,” said Senator Cardin.

“Schools serving students from low-income backgrounds and children with disabilities have been short-changed for far too long because Congress has failed to fully fund IDEA and Title I. This legislation would ensure that our most vulnerable students get the support they need by providing the range of services and resources that truly transform students' lives. I’ll keep pushing until every kid gets a quality education,” said Senator Murphy.

“Our nation’s children represent our future. Every student, including students with disabilities, should have fair and equal access to a quality education, regardless of how much their family makes or where they live,” said Senator Durbin. “I’m joining my colleagues in reintroducing the Keep Our Promise to America’s Children and Teachers (PACT) Act to ensure schools in need are well-funded and students receive the support they deserve.”

“Every student in our country deserves a quality education, which requires that we support low-income students and students with disabilities achieving their educational dreams,” said Senator Markey. “Each and every dollar we invest in education is a dollar that we invest in our future and our communities. Congress must ensure that educators have what they need to give every student the opportunity to thrive in the classroom.”

“Our schools need to work for all students, no matter how they learn or where they live. Strong schools help keep our communities and our economy strong, but only if we make sure they have the support they need,” said Sen. Smith, a member of the Senate Education Committee. “When I talk with Minnesotans, one of the top issues I hear about on education is how the federal government isn’t holding up its end of the bargain on special education and Title I funding, which squeezes Minnesota schools and hurts students. This legislation would make sure the federal government follows through on the promise to invest in schools and help all students reach their full potential.”

“Every American deserves the chance to receive a quality education, but too often and for too long, low-income students and students with disabilities have faced barriers in accessing those opportunities,” said Senator Klobuchar. “Our legislation will ensure that we finally live up to our promise of fully funding critical federal programs that help more children access quality education.”

“Fully funding the education of students with disabilities and low-income students should be nonnegotiable. School districts and educators deserve adequate resources to provide all students with a meaningful classroom experience. By bolstering Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, our legislation ensures our students are supported rather than shortchanged,” said Senator Blumenthal.

“As a former school superintendent, I know just how important it is to give schools the financial support they need to educate our kids – especially kids from low-income neighborhoods and living with disabilities. Congress must make good on its Title I and IDEA commitments and responsibly fund a high quality education for every student by passing the Keep our PACT Act,” said Senator Bennet.

"Education is the foundation of a strong and prosperous society, and investing in our children's education is an investment in our country's future,” said Senator Booker. “The Keep Our PACT Act would fulfill our commitment to our children and educators across the country by providing every child in America with access to a high-quality education and supporting our dedicated teachers who work tirelessly to make that goal a reality. I'm proud to join my colleagues to introduce this bill and will continue to advocate for policies that prioritize our children's education.”