Special Education Funding
I’ve been meaning to post about this for a while, but it’s such an involved topic and one that really gets me hot under the collar. It has to do with federal funding and IDEA. In my Google Alerts today, I came across a brief article about Obama’s proposed budget. And I quote:
Funding for special education programs remained almost flat in President Barack Obama’s budget proposal released this week, reporter Christina A. Samuels writes in this blog post. The budget calls for $11.6 billion for students with disabilities ages 3-21 served under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and $463 million for infant and toddler programs provided under Part C of the IDEA.
I know I’ve been doing a lot of posts over the past year about the Special Education Funding Reform in Pennsylvania, or HB2. HB2 has now passed and will more fairly and evenly distribute special education funds in Pennsylvania. However, it does not call for any additional funding. Overall we still only have the same amount of money that we have been working with, it will just be split up differently. And we know that it’s not enough.
Last year when I was in Harrisburg, since I was there to lobby for special education funding reform, that is of course what I talked about with legislators. One of them said to me, “You should sue the Federal Government.” I literally looked at him and said, “I’m a mom to child with special needs, I work, I have a family….I don’t have time or resources to sue the Federal Government.” But his point is well taken. So what did he mean?
Full Funding of IDEA-Never happened!
I’ll try to make this as simple as possible. This goes back a loonnnnnnggggg time, back to 1975. In 1975, our (federal) Congress passed some legislation that included updates and amendments to IDEA. As part of these changes, they (Congress!) agreed to pay the excess costs of educating a child with special needs. It was determined that a good figure to use was 40%.
In other words, Congress agreed to pay 40% of the costs for a child with special needs.
To date, they have paid on average………about 17%.
Let that sink in for a minute. For almost 40 years, we have not been receiving this funding. Our Federal Government has never held up their end of the bargain and fully funded special education as promised. As far as I know, there are no movements, grassroots or otherwise, to change this. With the release of the information about special education funding and Obama’s budget, it is clear that this is not going to change anytime soon. As they say, you can’t get blood from a stone. With all the talks about sequester, deficit and all that…..it’s unlikely we’d get enough votes to suddenly increase special education funding by 25-30%. I wish!
In 2004 Congress promised to have IDEA fully funded by 2011, and since then, federal funding has actually decreased.
So, to the school districts….we hear you. I get it. You don’t have enough money and you have never been given the proper amount of funding, and costs for educating our kids have increased dramatically in the past 40 years. Really, I understand.
But why are you fighting with the families over this? Why are you not going after the source? Why don’t you band together, using your professional organizations or unions or whatever….and go after the promised and legislated funding? Why are you trying to squeeze it out of the kids? We don’t have it. And by trying to cut our necessary services, you’re only costing yourselves more money in the long run.
Almost ten years ago, several big groups got together and tried to change this, but obviously it was not successful. And, if it wasn’t successful in 2006, before our big recession, I don’t see it happening now, during a recession. You can read their official paper from 2006 here:
So, do I have any suggestions? I don’t know, I’m only one mom, one advocate, one blogger. I have an army (you!) but it’s small. I’m open to suggestions and open to any pro bono legal services, if an attorney wants to actually sue the federal government. I know we can round up enough families to do so. But in the meantime, since this is on my radar again, I am going to contact both of my Senators and my House Rep about this. I encourage you to do the same. In all seriousness, if someone is interested enough and motivated enough to lead a grassroots effort on this, I’m in! I will happily help the best I can via the blog and social media.