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NEA applauds steps to help students with disabilities

New House and Senate bills would realize promise to fully fund special education

WASHINGTON - September 15, 2009 -

Lawmakers are taking steps to fulfill broken promises by the federal government to help students who need special education services. Today, Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Todd Russell Platts (R-PA) and Tim Walz (D-MN) introduced a bill to make new funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandatory. The bill also calls for full funding of IDEA in six years.

When IDEA became law in 1975, Congress agreed to provide 40 percent of the cost of educating students with disabilities.  Funding for students with disabilities has never reached half of the promised amount over the past three decades.  Other than the historic infusion of funds included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the federal government has not come close to meeting its commitment. Federal law requires that IDEA services be provided to children with disabilities.

“Schoolchildren cannot wait another three decades for Congress to fulfill its commitment,” said Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association. “The devastating combination of underfunding and state fiscal crises have forced school districts to either raise taxes or dip into general education budgets to make up for the shortfall. As a result, other critical services are cut.”

The Everyone Deserves UnConditional Access to Education (EDUCATE) Act is a bipartisan effort that would benefit the 6 million students who receive special education services throughout the United States. Sens. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Pat Roberts (R-KS) introduced a similar bill in the Senate last week. S. 1652 would amend IDEA to make new funding mandatory and fully fund IDEA in six years.

“NEA is pleased that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are supportive of this effort,” added Van Roekel. “I look forward to the day when school districts no longer have to grasp at straws to provide critical services to students with disabilities. By creating a steady revenue stream for IDEA, Congress would free up dollars at the local level, allowing more money to be spent on programs that benefit all students.”

For more on NEA’s efforts around IDEA and special education:

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional organization, representing
3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.


CONTACT: Ramona Parks-Kirby  (202) 822-7823,