The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandates that the Federal Government supply up to 40% of the costs incurred by states providing special education services to students with disabilities. The fact is that since 1975 when IDEA (then the P.L. 94-142 Education for all Handicapped Children Act) was first enacted, the Federal Government has never come close to providing this level of support. This not only affects special education services, but all K-12 education services. The intent of this article is to raise the awareness of parents, teachers, and other stakeholders to this issue.
Accountability. This term is often heard in discussions about education and points to a trend in our political system that wants to see improved achievement levels within our schools. Current educational reform efforts look to raise achievement of students and to have them achieving up to “world-class” standards. High standards for all students is a common theme heard at the local, state, and federal level of our educational system. The important idea here is that “all” students are expected to achieve at high levels and thus includes a population of students that are often not thought capable of achieving at high levels: students with disabilities. Within current K-12 education reform efforts, those who fail to achieve at certain levels face consequences in various forms, depending on the state’s policy. Simply put, students need to achieve at a certain levels or students, teachers, and school administration will be held accountable by the Federal Government. However, the Federal Government needs to be held accountable on an issue that has long hindered special education and it’s ability to get students to achieve at the highest level: fully funding special education at the 40% of the national average expenditure for all students (APPE) mandated by IDEA. IDEA mandates that 40% of the costs incurred in special education will be funded by the Federal Government. This shown within the IDEA regulations, subpart G:
§300.701 Grants to States.
(a) Purpose of grants. The Secretary makes grants to States and the outlying areas and provides funds to the Secretary of the Interior, to assist them to provide special education and related services to children with disabilities in accordance with Part B of the Act.
(b) Maximum amounts. The maximum amount of the grant a State may receive under section 611 of the Act for any fiscal year is-
(1) The number of children with disabilities in the State who are receiving special education and related services-
(i) Aged 3 through 5 if the State is eligible for a grant under section 619 of the Act; and
(ii) Aged 6 through 21; multiplied by-
(2) Forty (40) percent of the average per-pupil expenditure in public elementary and secondary schools in the United States.
(Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1411(a))
Who makes up the difference for this lack of support? State and local education agencies do and it creates a multitude of fiscal and educational problems. A document provided by the Center for Special Education Finance (CSEF) shows that the percentage shares of federal, state, and local expenditures have remained relatively constant over a 11-year period, they also show that the local share of special education expenditures have been gradually rising (<http://csef.air.org/papers/tbl2-6.pdf>). As you can see from the previous document, the percentage provided by the Federal Government is nowhere near the 40% mandated by IDEA. Another document from the CSEF shows 24 state’s special education expenditures for the 1993-94 school year (<http://csef.air.org/papers/tbl2-5.pdf>). In 1994, another CSEF document (<http://csef.air.org/papers/brief1.pdf>) said that the total appropriated funds would be 8.79% of the APPE, far below the 40% needed. Many local and state agencies do not collect or maintain such data systematically so it recommended that people contact their local and state educational agencies to discuss their state’s special education funding situation.
What are the implications of this lack of funding? State and local education agencies are often forced to dip into their general funds in order to meet the costs not covered by their IDEA funds, which creates a number of problems between special and regular education. It creates a situation where special and regular education is pitted against each other as they vie for resources that are already tight. It creates situations where student’s needs come second to what the state and district can pay for. It creates anger, frustration, and pits people and programs against one another.
Students with disabilities depend on free and appropriate individualized special education services that are mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in order to help them achieve their educational, vocational, and independent living goals. There has been a great deal of media attention for a number of years concerning special education, especially its financial demands in comparison to regular education. The fact that IDEA is not being fully supported financially by the Federal Government is causing many problems within special education as well as regular education. A common perception is that special education is taking money and resources away from regular education. Unfortunately, this is often true. Why? Costs incurred by special education programs in our schools are partly paid for through funds appropriated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Any costs not covered by these funds need to be paid for, and are often paid for through general funds used for regular education services. In an infamous study done by Moore, Strang, Schwartz, and Braddock (1988), it was suggested that expenditures on the average student with disabilities is about 2.28 times the average expenditures on students without disabilities. With the technological advancement in assistive and accessible technologies, and the increased demand for such technologies by students, parents, and advocates, expenditure differentials are likely to be wider.
The fact is not once since 1975, when IDEA was signed by then President Gerald Ford, has the Federal Government even come close to providing this 40% level of support. The question becomes “who is holding the Federal Government accountable for their lack of support for special education?”
It is time for parents, teachers, school administrators, advocates, and local and state leaders to hold the Federal Government accountable. An example of state leaders doing such can be seen at a recent dinner at the White House for the nation’s governors. Minnesota’s Governor Jessie Ventura and his wife and First Lady Terry Ventura, who is a strong advocate for people with disabilities, addressed this issue with President Bush and his staff. Ventura questioned White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card Jr. and Education Secretary Rod Paige, asking about the government's failure to live up to its promise to pick up 40 percent of federally mandated special education costs. "Personally, I'd like to see the federal government as least involved in education as possible, other than the mandate for special education," Ventura said. Ventura also said federal funding now accounts for only about 14 percent of special-education costs and Minnesota would save $250 million if the federal government paid the full amount it owes (Diaz). This is a common story in every state.
Fortunately, there is some good news from the Federal Government in response to this issue. Rep. Matthew Martinez (D-CA) introduced the "IDEA Full Funding Act of 2000" to Congress on January 17, 2000. The bill, H.R. 3545, would authorize enough additional Part B money for the next 10 years to reach the 40 percent mark by 2010. Under IDEA, Congress authorized the Federal Government to contribute up to 40 percent of the national average per pupil expenditure for the purpose of educating children with disabilities. This Bill can be viewed at <http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c106:hr3545>:. In this document, it is stated “To date, the Federal Government has never contributed more than 12.6 percent of the maximum state grant allocation for educating children with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act”.
The question becomes, “how can we being to make the Federal Government live up to their responsibilities”? Write your local, state, and Federal leaders and ask about the status about the IDEA Full Funding Act of 2000. Get involved with the schools and partner with them in an effort to make this a topic of high importance. In our schools, the most powerful voices are those of parents. Historically, special and regular education has had a combative relationship due to their battle for limited resources and their philosophical differences. Some of this can be traced to the fact that IDEA has never lived up to it’s promises and has put the pressure on the states and local school districts to cope with the consequences of a lack of resources that are supposedly entitled to them.
When asked by the Council of Exceptional Children about special education funding in the fall of 2000, then Presidential Candidate George W. Bush responded by saying “I support increased special education funding with the goal of meeting the federal obligation as mandated under IDEA” (CEC, 2000). In light of the IDEA Full Funding Act of 2000 Bill, and President Bush’s support for meeting the federal obligations mandated under IDEA, solutions need to emerge. Funding the 40% that is entitled to special education enable school administrators to create and manage a budget that will help students with special needs receive the services and supports they need to reach their dreams and goals. It will also help ease the competitive relationship that exists between special and regular education. Most importantly, it will help students get the services they need and are entitled to. The Federal Government needs to be held accountable like anyone else and it is the job of parents, teachers, and school administrators to hold them accountable.
Chambers, J.G., Parrish, T.B., Lieberman, J.C., & Wolman, J.M. (1998). What are we spending on special education in the US? Center for Special Education Finance; Brief #8.
Diaz, K. (2001). Ventura to push special education funding with President Bush. Star-Tribune, <http://webserv6.startribune.com/stOnLine/cgi-bin/article?thisSlug=VENT26&date=26-Feb-2001&word=ventura&word=terry>
Moore, M.T., Strang, E.W., Schwartz, M., and Braddock, M. (1988). Patterns in special education service delivery and cost. Washington DC: Decision Resources Corporation
Parrish, T.B. (1993). Federal policy options for funding special education. Center for Special Education Finance; Brief #1.
www.cec.sped.org <http://www.cec.sped.org>: The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) is the largest international professional organization dedicated to improving educational outcomes for individuals with exceptionalities, students with disabilities, and/or the gifted.
www.csef.air.org <http://www.csef.air.org>: The Center for Special Education Finance (CSEF) was established in October 1992 to address fiscal policy questions related to the delivery and support of special education services throughout the United States.
www.ideapractices.org <http://www.ideapractices.org>: The IDEA Practices Web site is developed and maintained by Education Development Center, Inc. <http://www.edc.org>(EDC). EDC is a nonprofit educational research and development organization located in Newton, MA, with more than 250 projects around the globe.
Legislative information on the Internet. <http://thomas.loc.gov>:
Copyright © 2001 Taylor Kearns
Copyright © 1998