WASHINGTON–U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) joined U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and U.S. Representative Jared Huffman (D-Calif.-02) this week to introduce the IDEA Full Funding Act. This legislation would finally ensure Congress fulfills its commitment to fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In 1975, Congress passed IDEA to ensure that every child with a disability has access to educational opportunity. This law was a historic step forward, but since its passage Congress has failed to provide the funding it promised.

Under IDEA, the federal government committed to pay 40 percent of the average per pupil expenditure for special education. However, that pledge has never been met, and current funding is at less than 13 percent. According to the Congressional Research Service, the IDEA shortfall in the 2021-2022 school year nationwide was $23.92 billion. The IDEA Full Funding Act would require regular, mandatory increases in IDEA spending to finally meet our obligation to America’s children and schools. It is cosponsored by more than 20 Senators and over 60 House members. Text of the IDEA Full Funding Act can be viewed here.

“For far too long, we have shortchanged students with disabilities. Especially after the challenges kids with disabilities have faced over the last few years, Congress must work to ensure schools have the funding necessary to provide every kid with the services and supports that fit their unique needs.  This legislation would bring a big boost in federal funding for schools and help ensure all students, particularly those with the greatest needs, have everything they need to thrive in the classroom,” said Murphy.

“The federal government has continually failed teachers, parents, and students who deserve access to a high-quality education with an enriching classroom experience. Congress must fulfill its commitment and provide the necessary funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to help school districts ensure students with disabilities are supported rather than shortchanged, and are given the chance to shine and succeed,” said Blumenthal.

“Providing our children equal access to a quality education helps ensure every student has a fair shot at success. But for decades the federal government has fallen short of its funding commitment to IDEA – leaving students with disabilities at a disadvantage year after year. Our bill will put us on a path to honor our promise to students with disabilities and ensure they receive the first-rate education they deserve. It will also better ensure that school systems have sufficient resources to meet the needs of all their students,” said Van Hollen.

“In recent years, thanks to the hard work of the coalition we've built around this bill, we’ve been able to make incremental increases in funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act through the annual appropriations process. I’m proud of the progress we’ve made, but the government has never lived up to the full promise of IDEA,” said Huffman. “Every single student – regardless of race, socioeconomic status, disability, you name it – deserves a full, quality education. The chronic underfunding creates an unfair burden on students, teachers, families, and schools. Our bill holds up Congress’ end of the bargain to fully fund special education services on a permanent basis and ensure all students have the chance to succeed.”

This legislation is supported a broad and diverse group of over 60 national organizations, including by AASA – The School Superintendent Association, American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Council for Exceptional Children, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), National Center for Learning Disabilities, National Education Association.

“The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is central to the federal role in K12 education and represents a critical commitment to help level the playing field for historically disadvantaged populations, students with disabilities. When Congress passed the historic IDEA and opened the doors of educational opportunity to all students, regardless of ability, it recognized it would come at a cost and committed to providing 40% of the additional cost associated with educating these students. Congress has constantly failed to reach this commitment, and is in fact below 13%—less than half of its commitment—in the current fiscal year. For that reason, AASA is proud to endorse the IDEA Full Funding Act, being introduced in both the House and Senate this week, for holding Congress accountable and creating a clear path and plan of action,” said Dr. David R. Schuler, Executive Director, AASA, The School Superintendents Association.

“We are proud to once again endorse the IDEA Full Funding Act” said Marc Egan, Director of Government Relations at the National Education Association (NEA). “The IDEA Full Funding Act ensures that no matter the zip code, students with disabilities have equal access to a well-rounded, high-quality public education. We must do right by our children and Congress should fulfill its pledge towards their education, which also strengthens our nation. We commend Senator Van Hollen and Congressman Huffman for their leadership in addressing the chronic underfunding of IDEA.” 

The legislation is cosponsored in the Senate by U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), John Fetterman (D-Pa.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

The bill is also supported by the: American Academy of Pediatrics, American Music Therapy Association, American Occupational Therapy Association, American Physical Therapy Association, American Printing House for the Blind, American Psychological Association Services, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, American Therapeutic Recreation Association, Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA), Association of CA School Administrators, Association of Educational Service Agencies, Association of People Supporting Employment First (APSE), Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO), Association of University Centers of Disabilities, Autism Society of America, Autistic People of Color Fund (APOC), Autism Self-Advocacy Network, Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, CA Small School Districts' Association, California County Superintendents, California School Boards Association, CAST, Center for Learner Equity, Coalition for Adequate Funding for Special Education (California), CommunicationFIRST, Council for Learning Disabilities, Council of Administrators of Special Education, Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR), Council of Administrators of Special Education, Council of the Great City Schools, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, Division for Early Childhood of the CEC, Division of Learning Disabilities - Council for Exceptional Children, Future Robotics, Higher Education Consortium for Special Education (HECSE),  IDEA Infants and Toddlers Coordinators Association (ITCA), Learning Disabilities Association of America, Los Angeles Unified School District, Moms of Black and Brown Children, National Association for Music Education, National Association for Pupil Transportation, National Association of ESEA State Program Administrators, National Association of School Boards, National Association of School Nurses, National Association of School Psychologists, National Association of State Directors of Special Education, National Consortium for Physical Education for Individuals with Disabilities (NCPEID), National Disability Rights Network(NDRN), National Down Syndrome Congress, National Down Syndrome Society, National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium, National Rural Education Association, National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium, National School Boards Association, Perkins School for the Blind, San Diego Unified School District, School Social Work Association of America, TASH, Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children (TED), The Advocacy Institute, The Arc of the United States, and The Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies.