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

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. HAGEL. Mr. President, I rise tonight in support of an amendment I have offered, along with my colleagues, Senators DODD and JEFFORDS and others, to increase funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Act, IDEA, part B, by an additional $1.2 billion in fiscal year 2004. This amendment would bring the total IDEA fiscal year 2004 increase to $2.2 billion, which was the level approved by the Senate in the fiscal year 2004 budget resolution earlier this year.

For the past 3 years, I have worked with Senators HARKIN, DODD, JEFFORDS, and many of my Republican colleagues to increase funding for IDEA. I have argued that no education funding priority is as important or will do more for States in this time of budget crisis than meeting our Federal commitment to IDEA.

As we all know, in 1975 Congress guaranteed children with disabilities the right to free and appropriate education. This meant that, whatever the cost, States and local school districts would be mandated by Federal law to provide the necessary services to educate a child with a disability. Congress understood that this Federal mandate would be costly. As a result, they agreed to provide States with 40 percent of the cost of educating these children. That was almost 30 years ago.

Unfortunately, Congress has not kept its end of the deal. While our schools continue to meet the necessary requirements under IDEA year after year, they also bear more than their fair share of the costs for complying with this law. Today, the Federal Government's commitment to IDEA is only 18 percent.

As in years past, I offered legislation with Senator Harkin and others to ensure that the Federal Government provides for special education by making funding increases for this program mandatory. But we will have this discussion on mandatory versus discretionary funding for this program when we take up the IDEA reauthorization legislation later this year.

We are here today because, again, as years in the past, this appropriations bill has failed. We failed to keep our funding proposition. That is why we need this amendment. The fiscal year 2004 budget resolution approved by this body allowed for a $2.2 billion increase for IDEA, part B funding. Unfortunately, the Senate Appropriations Committee underfunded this program, only providing an increase of $1 billion.

The Dodd-Hagel-Jeffords amendment provides an additional $1.2 billion for IDEA, meeting the approved budget increase of $2.2 billion already approved this year.

Additionally, the amendment would put us on a realistic path to reaching our obligation to provide States and local school districts with 40 percent of the cost of educating children with disabilities.

This is the responsible thing to do. I ask my colleagues to support this amendment when it comes up for a vote tomorrow morning.

Mr. President, I thank you and yield the floor.

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