Lawmakers Make Push To Totally Fund IDEA

U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Introduced legislation last week to fully fund two federal education mandates that help students with special needs and schools with high poverty.

For years, states have complained that Congress passed laws requiring school districts to provide additional services – often the most expensive education – to some students, but not provide full funding for them.

“I see this as an investment that will bring significant returns not only to students but also to the country by expanding people’s economic opportunities,” he said.

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Van Hollen has introduced the law every year since he was elected to the Senate in 2016, but it has never been passed. Rep. Susie Lee, a Democrat representing Nevada, introduced the Keep Our Promise to America’s Children and Teachers (PACT) bill in the House.

“What is different now is that we have added tremendous momentum,” he said. In addition to Senate support, President Joe Biden has been helping to triple funding for Title I, the law that mandates more spending on low-income students, Van Hollen said. The legislation provides for additional federal funding to be made available gradually over more than a decade.

The Disabled Awareness Act, known as IDEA, requires additional support for students with disabilities. The federal government should pay 40% of special education costs but is currently funding only 13.8%, according to the National Education Association.

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