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Full Funding for Special Education? Lawmakers Try for Fifth Straight Congress

Like clockwork in recent years, a bipartisan group of lawmakers is pushing to "fully fund" federal spending on special education.

The IDEA Full Funding Act, introduced Thursday, would ramp up Washington's budget for students with special needs. The legislation calls for the feds to pick up 40 percent of the extra cost of educating a student in special education. That's the share Congress is authorized to spend under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which passed back  in 1975. Congress hasn't come close to that level in years. And right now, the federal government pays for just 15.3 percent of those expenses, leaving the rest to states and school districts. Current federal spending under the IDEA stands at $12.8 billion. 

The proposal "would ensure our schools have the resources they need to support students with disabilities, and that Congress finally meets its commitments to all students," Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., a lead author of the legislation, said in a statement announcing the bill. 

Special education has gotten more of the spotlight ever since Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos' controversial comments about IDEA during her January confirmation hearing. The Trump administration's proposed budget would cut a relatively small amount, about, $100 million, from IDEA spending. DeVos' recent comments about special education services with respect to school choice proposals in the budget have also caused a stir.

Last month, DeVos told Congress that Washington would need to spend $30 billion on special education in order to meet that 40 percent authorization level. 

Other lead writers of the bill are Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y., Rep. David McKinley, R-W.V., Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., and Tim Walz, D-Minn.

The IDEA Full Funding Act has the support of 36 education groups. But it's probably a very long shot to make it over the legislative finish line: This is the fifth straight Congress that lawmakers have introduced legislation with this specific intent. Our colleague Christina Samuels wrote about a similar proposal when Huffman was introduced it in the last Congress early in 2015

Read the bill here:

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