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President's Budget Would Boost Spending for Infants, Toddlers

While in general, President Barack Obama's 2013 budget proposal keeps special education spending at about the same level as in the 2012 budget, a few programs would get a boost if he gets his way.

The president proposes increasing special education programs for infants and toddlers by $20 million for a total of $462.7 million—that would be a 5 percent bump for a relatively small program that serves only a few hundred thousand children, in comparison to the millions of students with disabilities in public schools. (In another nod to early intervention and support, the president also calls for an increase in the budget for Head Start of about $85 million, for a total of $8 billion.)

He is also proposing more money for a newer program called PROMISE—Promoting Readiness of Minors in SSI (Supplemental Security Income). The president wanted $30 million for the program, new last year, but got $12 million, with some money under the federal Department of Education's budget and the rest under the Social Security Administration.

Some children under age 18 qualify for SSI if they have a physical or mental condition (or combination of conditions) that results in "marked and severe functional limitations" and the condition is expected to last at least 12 months or result in death, the Social Security Administration says.

PROMISE provides competitive grants to test and evaluate interventions that successfully improve child and family outcomes and result in children leaving the SSI program. The program is intended to improve the physical and emotional health and educational attainment and future employment of children receiving SSI benefits, and provide improved services and support for their families, including education and job training for parents.

While keeping programs flat-funded may be better than a cut, it's possible that keeping spending level could be viewed as losing money. State and district spending on education has shrunk, and many are now grappling with paying for special education services that had been covered with federal stimulus money.

Read more details about the federal education budget in a complete Education Week story by my colleague, Alyson Klein.

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