Advocacy Alert: Urge Congress to fully fund IDEA

A renewed push is now underway for Congress to fully fund the federal commitment under the federal special education law known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  You can join in that effort.

With Congress currently in the middle of its August recess period, most members are back in their districts.  This is a great time to contact your U.S. Representative or U.S. Senator and urge them to support bi-partisan legislation—called the IDEA Full Funding Act—that would authorize a 10-year plan to get us to full funding of IDEA. You can get helpful information about contacting your members of Congress from the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA’s) advocacy webpage here  

The current list of U.S. Representatives who have signed on as co-sponsors of the IDEA Full Funding Act is posted here.

Currently, the federal share of IDEA funding is less than 15%, even though Congress originally set a goal to fund 40% of the increased cost of educating students with disabilities in 1975 when it first enacted federal special education laws.  Those laws outline the services that states and school districts are required to provide to all students with disabilities. Despite the federal promise to provide 40 percent of the excess cost to educate students with disabilities, the appropriations have fallen short, leaving states and local school districts to make up the difference.

For a more in-depth look at federal underfunding of IDEA, please see this previous post.

Here are some talking points you may wish to use when communicating with members of Congress about the IDEA Full Funding Act:

  • Your sponsorship of the IDEA Full Funding Act (H.R. 1878/S. 866) will be greatly appreciated, as 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 in our nation.
  • Achieving IDEA’s promise – that all students with disabilities will have access to a free, appropriate public education – will require a much more balanced federal-state-local partnership. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the average federal investment for each student educated through IDEA is approximately $1,770 for Fiscal Year 2019, and would decline to $1,758 in Fiscal Year 2020 if the program is level-funded. Substantially greater federal resources are essential to meet the rising instructional costs and related supports associated with helping students with disabilities succeed and achieve their potential.
  • According to data from the U.S. Department of Education, the number of children aged 3 through 21 who are served through IDEA continues to increase. With each increase in the child count, our school districts are adjusting their budgets to accommodate this growth and ensure that each child receives the appropriate supports, including those for students affected by multiple disabilities whose individual education plans require more resources. Nevertheless, our school boards and educators remain committed to providing students with disabilities and their families the supports they need to become working, contributing, and engaged members of society. Therefore, the IDEA Full Funding Act would be extremely useful in addressing goals for sustainability, especially for districts that are implementing program innovations, such as those for early learning and interventions, special educator teams and student transitions.