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House Ed. Committee Chairman Seeks More Special Education Spending

U.S. Rep. John Kline, a Republican from Minnesota and the chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, says that the Obama administration's proposed education budget prioritizes "pet projects, unauthorized programs, and new initiatives" over increased special education spending.

In a letter to a House appropriations subcommittee, Kline echoes a much-used talking point from special education advocates: the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act authorized the federal government to pay for up to 40 percent of the cost of educating students with disabilities, but the actual amount appropriated by Congress hasn't come close to that. Currently, the federal contribution to the cost of special education nationwide is about 18 percent. From the letter:

As our nation struggles with debt levels that have eclipsed the size of the entire U.S. economy, difficult choices must be made. We must stop wasting taxpayer dollars on new and ineffective programs and instead work on meeting our basic obligation to ensure special needs children are prepared for success after high school.

It's hard not to think that Kline is taking aim, in part, at the administration's brand-new $75 billion proposal to bolster early-education programs in the states. The lawmaker's response to the preschool proposal was that he was looking for "substantive details."

But Kline is not alone in wanting more money for formula-funded programs such as special education and Title I. Those programs have generally seen their funding kept level in recent years, while the Obama administration has poured money into competitive grant programs such as Race to the Top. My colleague Alyson Klein wrote recently that Democratic senators were becoming less pleased with this approach.

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