Budget Analysis: Fully Fund IDEA 2021

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Budget Analysis: Fully Fund IDEA 2021

Since the passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1975, federal funding for the program has fallen woefully short of the amount initially promised by Congress under the law. In Fiscal Year 2020, the federal government provided a meager $12.7 billion to states to help offset the additional costs of providing special education and related services to an estimated 7 million students with disabilities nationwide. 
This Federal contribution was just 13.2% of the amount promised by Congress, also known as “full funding,” and has resulted in an approximate fiscal shortfall of $23.5 billion for special education services across the nation. As a result of this failure, the burden to cover the funding shortfall and additional cost for IDEA services has moved to states and local school districts. As the chart below indicates, after adjusting for inflation, funding provided in FY 20 is the lowest percentage of the federal share of IDEA funding since 2000. 

To make matters worse, the growth in the number of students served by IDEA in the past several years is further exacerbating state and local public school systems' budget shortfalls. Between 2011–12 and 2018–19, the number of students receiving IDEA services increased from 6.4 to 7.1 million, which in turn increased the percentage of IDEA students from 13 to 14 percent of total public school enrollment. In states like California, New York, and Florida the federal government's failure to fully fund IDEA has cost these localities $1.2 - $1.9 billion for special education services in school year 2020-21 alone. To see the full breakdown between state and federal IDEA funding gaps across the nation, check out this nifty chart below  from the National Education Association or click here

For AASA, which co-chairs the IDEA full funding coalition, these new statistics further highlight the need and importance of our allied advocacy efforts to push Congress to provide up to 40% of the costs associated with IDEA and other special education-related services. Looking ahead to the first months of the 117th session of Congress, it is likely that this issue will gain broader attention on Capitol Hill due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on K-12 operations. Thus far, Congress has already introduced the Keep Our Promise to America’s Children and Teachers (PACT) Act, which would fully fund Title I and IDEA. Moreover, our intel suggests that an IDEA full funding bill is in the works. As such, we implore you to keep up-to-date on all of AASA's advocacy efforts on IDEA to engage on this issue and ensure Congress provides this critical funding for our most vulnerable students.


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