Harkin Introduces Bills to Support High-Quality Education for Children with Disabilities
IDEA Full Funding Act and IDEA Fairness Restoration Act Provide Critical Resources Needed to Help Students with Disabilities Succeed
WASHINGTON, D.C.— Today Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, introduced two bills that seek to fulfill the promise of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that ensures access to a free, high-quality public education for children with disabilities. The IDEA Full Funding Act and the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act seek to achieve this goal by strengthening the financial support to schools and parents to ensure students with disabilities have the resources they need to succeed.
“Since passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, we have made steady progress in making sure that kids with disabilities have the same access to a quality education as everyone else. But there is still more work to do,” Harkin said. “Passing these critical bills will provide much-needed financial relief to already-strapped school districts and ensure parents are able to advocate for the high-quality education their children deserve without being hit with burdensome legal costs. These bills will help us fulfill the promise of IDEA and I look forward to working with my colleagues to move these critical bills forward.”
The IDEA Full Funding Act would help to strengthen the financial resources of schools so that they have the funding they need to provide the high-quality education IDEA promises for students with disabilities. When IDEA was first passed in 1975, Congress proposed that federal funds should cover up to 40 percent of the excess cost of education students with disabilities. While progress has been made in improving the education to which these students have access, the funding provided by the federal government has never reached the level discussed when the law was first passed in 1975. The percentage of additional costs schools take on to serve children with disabilities has remained stagnant at about 16 percent and in the current fiscal year, federal funds are almost $17 billion short of the level necessary to meet the 40 percent federal funding level. The IDEA Full Funding Act would meet that goal of federal support for schools at the 40 percent level.
The IDEA Full Funding Act is co-sponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). The IDEA Fairness Restoration Act is co-sponsored by Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD).
Key provisions of the IDEA Full Funding Act would:
- Gradually increase the federal dollars appropriated from $11.5 billion in FY 2014, which covers 16.2% of IDEA costs, to $35.6 billion in FY 2023, which represents 40% of costs.
- Provide much-needed relief to the financial burden schools face by supplying the necessary dollars to boost the quality and range of services available.
- Help to raise salaries for teachers and related services personnel, thereby allowing districts to enhance recruitment and retention of critical personnel.
- Support school districts in increasing graduation rates and postsecondary enrollment rates of students with disabilities.
The IDEA Fairness Restoration Act would help to support parents seeking to resolve disagreements with schools about the best education plan for their child. Parents can seek a due process hearing, but because a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling put the burden of proof on the parents, they are required to cover costs related to the hearing, including paying for expert witnesses. This makes it more difficult for families, especially those with limited resources, to protect the educational rights of their children. The IDEA Fairness Restoration Act would restore the initial intent of IDEA to cover the costs of expert fees and examinations when schools are found to be not meeting their legal requirements to provide a free and appropriate public education for children with disabilities.
You can read the bill summary of the IDEA Full Funding Act here.
You can read the bill summary of the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act here.
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