Issue Position: Preparing Our Children for the Future - Special Education
Preparing our children for the future means we must provide a quality education to all students, including children with disabilities. That means Congress must appropriate sufficient resources to fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
IDEA, originally created in 1975 and recently reauthorized in 2004, is legislation that provides funds to states for the education of children with disabilities. The IDEA law represents a real compromise that attempts to address the diverse interests of parents, teachers, disability advocates and school administrators. All of these groups share the same goal: providing the best possible education for all children, including children with disabilities.
Prior to this monumental legislation, children with disabilities were often shunned from traditional schools and relegated to state institutions. Today, special needs children are learning in the classroom side-by-side with their peers. This would not have been possible without IDEA.
This progress has not been painless, however. Keeping students with special needs in the classroom often requires extensive resources, and school boards and States are struggling to meet these rising costs. This problem is further exacerbated by the fact that although the federal government has made a commitment to pay for up to 40 percent of the costs of special education, we are currently falling far short of that commitment.
I am greatly concerned about this shortfall in funding. I believe that the federal government must live up to its promise to help schools pay the costs of educating students with special needs. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I have pushed repeatedly for additional funding for IDEA and raised this issue with the Department of Education during hearings on its budget.