Last week, the House and Senate Budget Committees presented two alternatives that place Congress on a path to mandatory full funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The House would set aside funding for five years but the Senate would fully fund IDEA by setting aside funding for 10 years.
When Congress passed IDEA in 1975, it promised to provide 40 percent of the national average per pupil expenditure for each disabled child served. However, even with large increases in funding over the last five years, the federal portion of IDEA funds has never exceeded 15 percent.
The House Budget Committee fashioned a reserve fund that would guarantee an increase of at least the President’s $1 billion budget request for fiscal year 2003. Over the next four years, the plan reserves a 12 percent annual increase for IDEA. Future increases will depend on whether Congress and the President agree to make IDEA funds mandatory when they reauthorize the special education law later this year.
The Senate Budget Committee’s resolution would fully fund IDEA by setting aside $2.5 billion each year until IDEA is fully funded in 2008.