March 26, 2019

Van Hollen, Roberts Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation to Fully Fund Special Education

Today, as part of Public Schools Week, U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), and Representative Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) introduced the IDEA Full Funding Act. This bipartisan legislation would 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. Text of the IDEA Full Funding Act can be found here.

"Every child deserves a quality education – and the Congress must keep its promises to fund its share. The federal government must stop shortchanging our students and make good on its commitment to fully fund IDEA. That's why I'm proud to introduce this legislation to support our schools and ensure a first-rate education for children with disabilities. I urge my colleagues to pass this common-sense, bipartisan bill immediately," said Senator Van Hollen, who also championed this legislation in the House of Representatives. According to the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, in 2017, Maryland received $206 million in IDEA funding. Under full funding, Maryland would have received $522 million -- a gap of $316 million. Between 2005 and 2017, the funding shortfall in Maryland totaled $3.496 billion.

“The IDEA Full Funding Act is commonsense legislation that will make good on Congress’ promise to ensure students with disabilities receive the best education possible,” said Senator Roberts. “I’m proud to support this bipartisan bill and look forward to working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get this over the finish line.”

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 14.7 percent. The IDEA Full Funding Act would require regular increases in IDEA spending to finally meet our commitment to America's children and schools.

“Because the federal government has failed to honor its IDEA funding promise, K-12 schools and school districts throughout America have been forced to pay more than their fair share,” said Representative Huffman. “That means less funding for everything from teacher pay to class size to affording music, art, and physical education classes. That’s why the bipartisan IDEA Full Funding Act to finally honor the IDEA promise is probably the most significant thing the federal government can do to support K-12 schools.” In addition to Representative Huffman, this legislation is cosponsored in the House by Representatives John Katko (R-N.Y.), David McKinley (R-W.Va.), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.), Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), and Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.).

“At the heart of the federal role in K12 education is a commitment to help level the playing field for historically disadvantaged populations, including students in poverty via Title I of the Every Student Succeeds Act and for students with disabilities via the Individuals with Disabilities with Education Act (IDEA). 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 15%--less than half of its commitments—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 AASA Executive Director, Daniel A. Domenech.

“The recent #RedforEd movement that has swept the nation continues to spotlight the need for greater investments in our students and schools. The IDEA Full Funding bill is sorely needed, as the federal share for special education funding has shockingly shrunk to its lowest level since 2000. That disinvestment shortchanges our students and puts added pressure on states and local school districts. We strongly support this bill and its 10-year glide path for Congress to deliver on its promises, and thank the leadership shown in introducing it,” said Marc Egan, Director of Government Relations for the National Education Association.

“The promise of public education in America is that we commit to teaching every single student in this country, regardless of their family’s income, their ZIP code or their abilities, but for far too long, that promise has been broken. We owe it to our children to deliver on that promise to fund our future, and to fully fund special education services to make sure every kid has an opportunity to succeed. Congress promised—and every year has failed—to provide schools 40 percent of the cost of educating students with disabilities. This forces school systems to make hard decisions about which children and services to shortchange. Once again, Senator Van Hollen is leading the way on that effort, with the IDEA Full Funding Act, which requires that we resource special education programs with appropriate funding, so students with special education needs can read at grade level, with access to the dedicated care and support they need in the classroom,” said AFT president Randi Weingarten.

“Investing in education for students with disabilities is crucial to their growth and success. This legislation will help ensure all students receive a quality education, and we deeply appreciate Senator Van Hollen’s efforts to address this issue. We urge Congress to take up this much-needed bill immediately,”  said Maryland State Education Association President Cheryl Bost.

“IDEA has been underfunded for far too long. As a result, educators across Baltimore City have been forced to develop and manage IEPs for students with learning disabilities and teach dozens of other students at the same time. Senator Van Hollen’s IDEA Full Funding ACT will change that and ensure that students and educators can have the learning and working environment that they deserve. AFT-Maryland is proud to support this legislation and will do all we can to ensure that it is passed and signed into law by the President,” said Marietta English, President, AFT-Maryland.

“Every child deserves a high-quality education and to have access to opportunities that make them college and career-ready, including children with disabilities. Greater financial support is essential for schools to be able to provide a quality education to children with disabilities,” said Jim Accomando, president of National PTA, the nation’s oldest and largest child advocacy association. “National PTA applauds Senator Chris Van Hollen for introducing the IDEA Full Funding Act to ensure children with disabilities have access to education and services that enable them to reach their full potential.”

“Maryland PTA supports the IDEA Full Funding Act! The programs and services authorized in IDEA have had a tremendous impact on the lives of more than 6.7 million students with disabilities,” said Maryland Parent Teacher Association President Latisha Corey. 

“Providing full funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)is critical for the more than 108,500 children with disabilities ages 3 -21 in the State of Maryland being educated in our public schools daily. As local Superintendents, we are acutely aware of the academic, social, emotional and behavioral needs of our most vulnerable students if IDEA funds are not fully funded. These students have unique learning needs and must be provided with every opportunity to be successful as their non-disabled peers possessing the 21st century skills necessary to become responsible, productive citizens who are college and career ready. PSSAM is proud to join with Maryland’s local boards of education in fully endorsing your bold action to reintroduce the IDEA Full Funding Act, which will fulfill a long overdue promise to our students with disabilities,”  said Daniel D. Curry, President of the Public School Superintendents' Association of Maryland.

“Fully funding IDEA will ensure every child with a disability is guaranteed a free appropriate public education with the opportunity for educational equity and access,” said Deborah Ziegler, Director of Policy and Advocacy for the Council for Exception Children.

 “NSBA thanks Senator Van Hollen and every senator who has co-sponsored this legislation to support full funding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. This legislation will establish a clear path towards fully achieving the federal share of resources needed to address the unique needs of almost seven million students with disabilities,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director and CEO of the National School Boards Association. “Full funding and modernization of IDEA is one of NSBA’s top priorities to help ensure our country’s students with disabilities receive the access and supports they need to succeed as productive, contributing, engaging members of society. The IDEA Full Funding Act will authorize a course for a stronger federal commitment to address equity in education and support local innovations, such as those for early learning and interventions, special educator teams and student transitions--all of which are essential to effectively serving students with disabilities and their families.”

“Congress passed the IDEA at a time when many public schools refused to educate students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). The purpose was not merely to let students with I/DD in the door, but to ensure that they get the high-quality education they need to reach their full potential. The IDEA Full Funding Act will, for the first time, provide school districts with the appropriate resources to meet the individualized educational needs of students with I/DD that the drafters of the IDEA envisioned over four decades ago,” said Annie Acosta Director of Fiscal and Family Support Policy, Public Policy, The Arc.

“We can be proud of our progress in educating children with special needs during the past few decades. With the passage of IDEA and the committed work of schools, graduation rates continue to rise and paths to future success come into view for the six million students who receive special services. Principals recognize how those students enrich a school when they are supported to fulfill their greatest potential. Yet, we still have a long way to go to meet that goal for each student. Congress has never come close to meeting its obligation to fund 40 percent of the extra costs that accompany special services. That shortfall results in reduced services—not just for students with special needs, but for all students in the school. The IDEA Full Funding Act provides a runway for Congress to finally meet its financial obligation and provide much-needed relief to local districts. NASSP is proud to support the bill and grateful to the Senate sponsors for introducing it,” said JoAnn Bartoletti, NASSP Executive Director.

“All students deserve access to a free, safe, nurturing and quality learning environment. Students with disabilities are no exception. AFSCME members across the country work with these students, driving their buses to get them safely to and from school, assisting them in the classroom, and helping to make sure they have equal access to a good education and a brighter future. We support the introduction of the IDEA Full Funding Act to ensure that the federal promise made to students with disabilities nearly 50 years ago is kept,” said AFSCME President Lee Saunders.

This legislation is supported by:

  • AASA, The School Superintendents Association
  • American Dance Therapy Association
  • American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • American Music Therapy Association
  • American Occupational Therapy Association
  • American Speech Language Hearing Association
  • Association of Educational Service Agencies
  • Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents
  • Association of School Business Officials International
  • Council for Exceptional Children
  • Council of Administrators of Special Education
  • Council of the Great City Schools
  • Disabled World
  • Forum for Youth Investment
  • IDEA Full Funding Coalition
  • Learning Disabilities Association of America
  • National Association of Councils of Developmental Disabilities
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Association of School Psychologists
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • National Association of State Directors of Special Education
  • National Center for Learning Disabilities
  • National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools
  • National Down Syndrome Congress
  • National Education Association
  • National PTA
  • National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium
  • National Rural Education Association
  • National School Boards Association
  • School Social Work Association of America
  • Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children
  • The ARC of the United States

In Maryland, this legislation is supported by:

  • Maryland PTA
  • Maryland Association of Boards of Education
  • Maryland State Education Association
  • Public School Superintendents' Association of Maryland 
  • American Federation of Teachers - Maryland