By Michelle Diament
February 18, 2014
A federal agency and more than 130 members of Congress are calling on President Barack Obama to allocate more funding for special education in his upcoming budget proposal.
In separate letters to Obama, the National Council on Disability and a group including both Democrats and Republicans in Congress are asking the federal government to increase special education spending for the coming year and to establish a 10-year plan to fully fund the program.
“We owe it to all students to provide a quality education that will help them graduate and enter successful careers,” reads a letter from more than 130 members of Congress that’s expected to be released Tuesday. “The federal government needs a plan to move us toward full funding for IDEA.”
When the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was enacted in 1975, Congress committed to funding 40 percent of the cost of special education, but the federal government has never actually paid more than 18.5 percent.
The call for increased special education spending comes as federal funding has gone up and down in recent years. A budget deal reached in January brought some relief for the program after sequestration forced significant cutbacks in 2013. Nonetheless, funding for the current year remains at a lower level than in 2012.
“While public school doors are open to students with every type of disability in the United States, inadequate financial resources make it difficult for dedicated teachers to meet their needs,” wrote the National Council on Disability, which is tasked with advising Congress and the president on disability issues, in its letter.
“Without additional funding and appropriate support, it will become even more difficult for students with disabilities to meet the ever-increasing demands of their school systems,” the council said.
Obama is currently preparing his 2015 budget proposal, which is expected to be unveiled March 4. That will mark the first step in the process of determining federal spending for the fiscal year that will run from Oct. 1, 2014 through September 2015.
White House officials did not respond to questions about how special education funding might fare in the president’s forthcoming budget.