Senate bill S1043, the IDEA full funding act, has been introduced by Senator Tom Harkin- D and co-sponsored by 13 other Democrat senators. The bill would increase federal funding for IDEA to 40% by the year 2021. The bill proposes to increase taxes on cigarettes and small cigars as a way to pay for the additional funding.
Bills like S1043 to increase funding for IDEA have been introduced in the past. Bill S.1652 was introduced in September 2009 by Senator Tom Harkin. This bill never became law.
Federal funding for IDEA has stood at 16%, significantly lower than was promised when IDEA was created in 1975. School districts have had to shoulder the burden of funding for educating students with disabilities. School districts are required to maintain the same funding every year or increaseit under the “maintenance of effort”, no matter their budget woes.
Requests for waivers to reduce special education spending is becoming more common place. If a state doesn’t request a waiver to reduce special education funding, they will lose funding equivalent to the amount they reduced it by in their budget. If a waiver is granted, states must still be sure that every child is afforded a Free and Appropriate Education (FAPE) in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE).
It is not certain whether Congress will act on this bill. This bill is sure to be watched closely by advocates for special education as well as states that feel crushed under the special education funding burden.