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Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2004

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I am a proud cosponsor of the Dodd-Hagel-Jeffords amendment No. 1572 to H.R. 2660. I am also proud of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the 6 million disabled children who this year have the keys to a brighter, more self-sufficient future. But so too am I greatly disappointed in this Congress and the President for breaking a promise for 28 straight years.

In 1975, we made a deal with our State and local school boards. Give our disabled children the education they deserve, we said, and we'll pay 40 percent of the additional cost, no matter what it takes. An expensive commitment? You bet. But without it, our values of fairness and personal initiative are just words on a page.

[Page S11279]

In the nearly three decades since, tens of millions of Americans have risen through the ranks of special education to become
independent, productive citizens. They go to college, get jobs, and pay taxes. Every one of them a shining example of what can happen when people are empowered.

Yet where they have fulfilled their promise, we have broken ours. We carry just 18 percent of this noble burden on our broad shoulders. Our States stagger under the heavy weight of the rest.

We have tried to correct this problem before. In 2001, this body wisely passed a version of No Child Left Behind that was true to its name.

We didn't mean "no able-bodied child left behind". We didn't mean "no disabled child in private school left behind". We meant that no child—no child—would be denied the tools needed to succeed. That's why we included—by a unanimous vote—full funding for IDEA.

Unfortunately, George Bush and his henchmen in the House of Representatives had other ideas. They decided that our tax dollars were better spent on corporate welfare and massive tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. This amendment would begin to right that wrong by restoring the $1.2 billion for IDEA cut from the Budget Resolution. Use the Republican forward-funding mechanism to pay for it. Get us back on the road to full funding.

I know most of my colleagues recognize the desperate needs in special education. But this amendment is about so much more than that. It's about a principal made heart-sick by pitting one group of students against another. It's about a mainstream teacher on the short end of that equation who loses her job. It's about a mother and father who just want their child to have a chance.

And right now, it's also about keeping a promise made to our most vulnerable children. We must take a stand. We must pass the Dodd/Hagel/Jeffords amendment on IDEA.

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