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Special Education Sees Small Increases in White House Budget Proposal

Special education would see modest increases across the board in the budget proposal released Monday by the White House, but the money would still not approach the "full funding" that has been supported by a bipartisan group of lawmakers and by U.S. Rep. John Kline, a Republican from Minnesota and the chairman of the House education committee. 

Funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in the U.S. Department of Education is split into several categories. The largest by far is IDEA Part B, which provides federal funding for students ages 3 to 21. The proposed increase for that program for fiscal 2016 is $175 million, taking the program from about $11.6 billion to approximately $11.7 billion. 

Another portion of IDEA funding is Part C, which pays for early-intervention services for infants and toddlers up to age 2. I've written before about how Part C has not gotten the same level of funding attention as other early-childhood initiatives, but it does get a small bump in the proposal, from $439 million to $504 million. Of that $65 million increase, the White House is proposing to reserve $15 million for  Pay for Success pilot programs to expand early screening and early-intervention services to infants and toddlers. Private and philanthropic partners would put money into a program upfront and receive a return on their investment if a certain social goal is met. (One of the better-known pay-for-success programs is funding early-childhood education in the Granite school district in Utah, with the goal of reducing future special eduation placements.) 

IDEA Section 619, which funds preschool programs for children ages 3 to 5, would grow from $353 million to $403 million. 

The budget proposal also sets aside $10 million that the department could use to help states pay for evidence-based reforms under the new "results-driven accountability" model aimed at improving the academic performance of students with disabilities. 

The National Institute of Disability and Rehabilitation Research was zeroed out of the Education Department budget: the agency was moved to the Administration for Community Living, a part of the Department of Health and Human Services, as part of the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act that was signed into law last July.

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