Rep. Huffman Introduces Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation to Fully Fund Special Education

March 26, 2019

Washington, D.C.- Today, as part of Public Schools Week, Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA), John Katko (R-NY), Joe Neguse (D-CO), David McKinley (R-WV), Dean Phillips (D-MN), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Kurt Schrader (D-OR), Glen Thompson (R-PA), and U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Pat Roberts (R-KS), introduced the IDEA Full Funding Act.

This bipartisan legislation would finally ensure Congress' commitment to fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In 1975, Congress passed IDEA to ensure that every child with a disability has access to educational opportunity. This law was a historic step forward, but since its passage Congress has failed to provide the funding promised under this bill.

“Because the federal government has failed to honor its IDEA funding promise, K-12 schools and school districts throughout America have been forced to pay more than their fair share,” said Rep. Huffman. “That means less funding for everything from teacher pay to class size to affording music, art, and physical education classes. That’s why the bipartisan IDEA Full Funding Act to finally honor the IDEA promise is probably the most significant thing the federal government can do to support K-12 schools.”

Under the 1975 IDEA legislation, the federal government committed to pay 40 percent of the average per pupil expenditure for special education. However, that pledge has never been met, and current funding is at just 14.7 percent. The IDEA Full Funding Act would require regular increases in IDEA spending to finally meet our commitment to America's children and schools.

“I’m honored to co-lead this critically important bill, and appreciate Congressman Huffman’s leadership on this issue,” said Rep. Neguse. “Every student has the right to a quality education and the promise laid out in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is meant to fulfill that right for children across the nation with disabilities, yet for far too long the federal government has fallen far short on funding this program. When I talk with teachers across Colorado, they always tell me one of the best things we can do to support public education is to fully fund IDEA. Full IDEA funding is essential to ensuring that students with disabilities can fully access quality education and have every opportunity to succeed. That is why I’m proud to lead on this bipartisan initiative to ensure that the federal government holds up their end of the bargain to fully fund this program and to ensure that children with disabilities are able to live up to their full potential.”

“No child should ever be denied a quality education because they have a disability. The IDEA Full Funding Act puts us on a path towards fulfilling a promise we made in 1975," said Rep. McKinley. “The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was a commitment from our government to children with special needs and their families that we would work to ensure they receive a proper education. The IDEA Funding Act will provide children with disabilities the bright future they deserve." 

“As a society, we must fight for fairness in our nation’s education system,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick. “This bipartisan legislation seeks to ensure the federal government is upholding its commitment to our special needs community so they have the resources and support they need to succeed.”

“For too long, Congress has continuously failed to keep our promise to fund education programs for students with disabilities,” said Rep. Schrader. “This failure spreads through our schools, taking resources away from other programs and diminishing quality for all our students. It is past time that Congress set up a path that gets us to full funding and takes the burden off our school districts. I am proud to once again be part of this effort because providing a quality education should be one of Congress’ top priorities in this ever-increasing competitive world.”

“The federal government made a financial commitment to states more than 40 years ago to ensure that students with special needs receive the best education possible,” said Rep. Glen Thompson. “This bill increases funding for students with disabilities to help prepare them for future employment and overall independent living. We must provide schools – and students – with the resources they need to be successful. I encourage my colleagues to support this important legislation.”

"Every child deserves a quality education – and the Congress must keep its promises to fund its share,” said Senator Van Hollen. “The federal government must stop shortchanging our students and make good on its commitment to fully fund IDEA. That's why I'm proud to introduce this legislation to support our schools and ensure a first-rate education for children with disabilities. I urge my colleagues to pass this common-sense, bipartisan bill immediately.

“The IDEA Full Funding Act is commonsense legislation that will make good on Congress’ promise to ensure students with disabilities receive the best education possible,” said Senator Roberts. “I’m proud to support this bipartisan bill and look forward to working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get this over the finish line.”

“NSBA thanks Congressman Huffman and every Member who has co-sponsored this bipartisan legislation to support full funding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. 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,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director and CEO of the National School Boards Association. “Full funding and modernization of IDEA is one of NSBA’s top priorities to help ensure our country’s students with disabilities receive the access and supports they need to succeed as productive, contributing, engaging members of society. The IDEA Full Funding Act will authorize a course for a stronger federal commitment to address equity in education and support local innovations, such as those for early learning and interventions, special educator teams and student transitions--all of which are essential to effectively serving students with disabilities and their families.”

“Fully funding IDEA will ensure every child with a disability has the opportunity for equity and access, guaranteeing a free appropriate public education,” said Deborah Deborah A. Ziegler, Ed.D, Director Policy and Advocacy, Council for Exceptional Children.

“The promise of public education in America is that we commit to teaching every single student in this country, regardless of their family’s income, their ZIP code or their abilities, but for far too long, that promise has been broken,” said AFT president Randi Weingarten. “We owe it to our children to deliver on that promise to fund our future, and to fully fund special education services to make sure every kid has an opportunity to succeed. Congress promised—and every year has failed—to provide schools 40 percent of the cost of educating students with disabilities. This forces school systems to make hard decisions about which children and services to shortchange. Once again, Senator Van Hollen and Rep. Huffman are leading the way on that effort, with the IDEA Full Funding Act, which requires that we resource special education programs with appropriate funding, so students with special education needs can read at grade level, with access to the dedicated care and support they need in the classroom.”

“At the heart of the federal role in K12 education is a commitment to help level the playing field for historically disadvantaged populations, including students in poverty via Title I of the Every Student Succeeds Act and for students with disabilities via the Individuals with Disabilities with Education Act (IDEA),” said AASA Executive Director, Daniel A. Domenech. “When Congress passed the historic IDEA and opened the doors of educational opportunity to all students, regardless of ability, it recognized it would come at a cost and committed to providing 40% of the additional cost associated with educating these students. Congress has constantly failed to reach this commitment, and is in fact below 15%--less than half of its commitments—in the current fiscal year. For that reason, AASA is proud to endorse the IDEA Full Funding Act, being introduced in both the House and Senate this week, for holding Congress accountable and creating a clear path and plan of action.”

"School districts are increasingly challenged to do more with less resources, especially when managing rising costs associated with educating special needs students. School business officials agree that one of the best ways to raise the tides for all students is by fully funding IDEA,” said Siobhán McMahon, Chief Operations Officer, Association of School Business Officials International. “When IDEA was passed, Congress pledged to provide 40% of the additional cost required for special education but only funds 16% of that cost today. Congress' broken promise to schools have forced districts to cut education programs at other students' expense to fill the gap for IDEA's underfunded mandates. It's time for Congress to make good on their promise so that all students can receive the high-quality education they deserve."

In the House of Representatives, original cosponsors of the IDEA Full Funding Act include Representatives Brendan Boyle (D-PA), Jeremy McNerney (D-CA), Terri A Sewell (D-AL), Angie Craig (D-MN), and Pete Stauber (R-MN).

This legislation is supported by:

  • AASA, The School Superintendents Association
  • American Dance Therapy Association
  • American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • American Music Therapy Association
  • American Occupational Therapy Association
  • American Speech Language Hearing Association
  • Association of Educational Service Agencies
  • Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents
  • Association of School Business Officials International
  • Council for Exceptional Children
  • Council of Administrators of Special Education
  • Council of the Great City Schools
  • Disabled World
  • Forum for Youth Investment
  • IDEA Full Funding Coalition
  • Learning Disabilities Association of America
  • National Association of Councils of Developmental Disabilities
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Association of School Psychologists
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • National Association of State Directors of Special Education
  • National Center for Learning Disabilities
  • National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools
  • National Down Syndrome Congress
  • National Education Association
  • National PTA
  • National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium
  • National Rural Education Association
  • National School Boards Association
  • School Social Work Association of America
  • Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children
  • The ARC of the United States