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03

By Lee Posey

Questions about special education funding are being raised by a group of U.S. House members as Washington awaits the release of President Obama’s federal fiscal year 2015 budget expected in early March.  

Representatives Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.), David McKinley (R-W. Va.) and Greg Harper (R-Miss.) are urging the White House to seek a funding boost for “Part B” grants under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). The group is also asking the pesident to work with Congress on a plan to achieve full funding for IDEA over the next 10 years. In addition, they are asking other members to sign onto the request; at the latest report, 19 members had done so. 

Federal special education law includes a provision that authorizes the federal government to fund 40 percent of the average per pupil expenditures (APPE) in K-12 nationwide, an estimate of excess cost for educating a special education student that the federal government would bear.  However, the federal contribution has never exceeded 18.5 percent of APPE.

Congress attempted to address this issue in 2004 when it last reauthorized IDEA by setting spending targets in a “glide path” to full funding by 2011. Congress failed to appropriate the authorized level of funds, and states received $57.1 billion less than they would have if Congress had kept its commitment for 2005-2011. Adding to the budget strain this situation represents for states, reports indicate that actual spending for special education services is 95 percent above APPE.

As NCSL’s policy directive on special education notes: “Federal support for special education is critical. State and federal laws and regulation, combine with the extensive and increasingly complex case law that has developed around special education, have made the practice of delivering services to students with disabilities complex and costly for states and communities.” The directive strongly urges Congress to fund the 40 percent of APPE statutorily authorized in Part B of IDEA.  Increased federal funding for special education would not only help give special education students the services they need, but would free up state and local funds for all students. Stayed tuned.

Lee Posey is senior committee director in  NCSL’s State-Federal Relations Division

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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.

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