When Congress approved the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in 1975, Congress committed to paying 40 percent of nationwide special education costs.
That threshold has never been met. In fiscal year 2011, the federal government authorized $11.5 billion in special education funding, or 16.1 percent of the nationwide total, leaving state and local governments scrambling to cover the additional costs.
Under a new bill introduced July 21, the federal government would be required to gradually increase its special education funding in pursuit of meeting the 40 percent threshold by fiscal year 2021, to an estimated $35.3 billion.
The additional funding would come from a doubling of the cigarette tax and a tax on small cigars.
U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) introduced the bill, titled the IDEA Full Funding Act, along with 13 Democrats cosponsors.
“This bill represents a necessary step for improving educational outcomes for students with disabilities and preparing them to reach their potential and secure competitive employment in our 21st century workforce,” Harkin said in a news release. “Full funding of IDEA – at no additional cost to the federal government — will provide much-needed relief to already-strapped school districts and fulfill the promise we made 36 years ago to help communities provide a high-quality education to all students.”
Nationwide, 6.6 million students are currently receiving special education services.