Sen. Harkin reintroduces IDEA Full Funding Act

A photograph of the word "Senate" on glass above a door leading to the U.S. Senate
Senate Bill Would Increase Special Education Funding

A bill that would more than double the nation’s spending on special education services was introduced in the Senate on September 10.

For the current fiscal year, the federal government is covering the funding for about 16 percent of the nation’s special education services, while the rest is covered by a combination of state and local funding. When Congress passed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1975, the federal government committed to covering 40 percent of these costs.

Under the IDEA Full Funding Act, Congress would create a 10-year timetable to reach the 40 percent threshold, raising the amount of federal expenditures on special education services from $11.5 billion in FY 2014, to $35.6 billion in FY 2023.

“To fully realize the promise of IDEA and ensure that each and every child with disabilities has access to a high-quality public education, Congress must meet its commitment to fully fund IDEA at the 40% level,” the senators stated in a bill summary released by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

The bill is co-sponsored by Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), 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).

A bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House of Representatives most recently introduced a version of the bill in March 2014, one month after 139 representatives signed a letter to President Obama, calling for the increased federal special education expenditures.