On November 29, 1975, President Gerald Ford signed IDEA 1975 into law. Before IDEA 1975 took effect, only 20% of children with disabilities were in the public school system.

Most of the others were either institutionalized or kept at home in a custodial care situation—parents taking care of them but not receiving an education.

Since we are at the 48th anniversary of this monumental legislation, I thought it was a good time to reflect on where we’ve come and yet, how far we have to go.

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Next year is an Election Year. Let’s tell our legislators how we feel. It’s also a great opportunity to call, email, and tweet at your legislators and ask them to take action.

president ford signing IDEA

History of IDEA

I’ve done two previous posts on the history of IDEA 1975 and how we got there. I am a history nerd, so I love reading and talking about it, but I also think it is important for parents to understand how we got here. I strongly suggest you read them when you have time.

IDEA: Decades of Terrible Outcomes

But, since we are at the anniversary, we should not only reflect on how far we have come but what work needs to be done. Because there is still much work to be done. For example:

That’s not progress. We are failing our kids, and we are failing society. Despite being a law for 45 years, we have not changed outcomes. And it’s time to remind our legislators of that.

So, it’s time for us to get to work as parents and teachers. We MUST speak up about this; we cannot let it continue. Yeah, our kids are in the public school system, but if we are not improving outcomes, what’s the point?

Unless we demand change, it won’t change—it hasn’t changed in decades!

Advocating for Full Funding of IDEA

Step 1: This is a federal issue, so contact your federal legislators. That is two Senators and one person from the House of Representatives. Use that link to find them.

Step 2: Plan a short email; most have a “Contact Us” form on their websites.


I am a constituent who lives in {city, state} and am represented by you in Congress/Senate. Welcome to the new session of Congress! I am an active advocate for disabled children, and wanted to introduce myself.

As you are probably aware, we recently marked the 45th anniversary of IDEA 1975–the monumental legislation that guaranteed children with disabilities a free and appropriate education.

But, are you aware that despite being law for 45 years, we have done very little to change outcomes for these kids? People with disabilities still have astronomically high unemployment rates and make up a disproportionate part of prison populations. That has to change.

It’s time to fully fund IDEA 1975 at the 40% federal rate. Our schools are not given the resources to succeed with our kids. We need more incentives for America’s businesses to hire people with disabilities. We need our state and community police departments to be better trained in identifying invisible disabilities like autism.

As a parent of a child who needs special education, this is a very important issue for me. In the past, (now retired) Senator Harkin and others have introduced legislation to fully fund IDEA but it never passedSenator Van Hollen is trying to get movement on this issue in the Senate. I would like you to support or co-sponsor this legislation. Giving disabled children the resources they need to learn should not be a partisan issue.

45 years have passed since President Ford signed IDEA into law. But, now it’s time for us to improve outcomes for kids with disabilities, which we have not done so far. I appreciate your attention to this matter.

Have a great day,


Step 3: Call them. Use the link above to find their office phone numbers. Call either your closest regional office (or stop in, if that is feasible) or the DC office and tell them the same message above.

Thanks for your participation!

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