Obama’s disappointing education budget

21 Feb

One of the key features of the Obama commitment during the campaign was a commitment to fully fund the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act). The IDEA made a commitment that the U.S. Federal Government would pay 40% of the costs of special education. In reality, the government typically pays about 17%.

Here is the wording from his plan. It was inspiring to hear a presidential candidate make such a bold commitment. One that could make a huge difference for disabled children.

Fully Funding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: Barack Obama has been a strong and
consistent advocate for fully funding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Congress
promised to shoulder 40 percent of each state’s “excess cost” of educating children with disabilities, but it has
never lived up to this obligation. Currently, the federal government provides less than half of the promised
funding (17 percent). Children are being shortchanged, and their parents are forced to fight with cash-strapped
school districts to get the free and appropriate education the IDEA promises their children. Fully funding IDEA
will provide students with disabilities the public education they have a right to, and school districts will be able
to provide services without cutting into their general education budgets. In addition to fully funding IDEA,
Barack Obama and Joe Biden will ensure effective implementation and enforcement of the Act.

Here is what the 2011 budget proposes:

The $12.8 billion request for Special Education programs focuses on improving educational and early intervention outcomes for children with disabilities. For the Grants to States program, the Administration is requesting $11.8 billion, an increase of $250 million over the 2010 appropriation, to maintain the Federal contribution toward meeting the excess cost of special education at about 17 percent of the national average per pupil expenditure (APPE), and provide an estimated average of $1,750 per student for about 6.7 million children ages 3 through 21. Funding for the Grants for Infants and Families and Preschool Grants programs would be maintained at their 2010 levels

17%. Status quo. Disappointing.

5 Responses to “Obama’s disappointing education budget”

  1. Joeymom February 21, 2010 at 15:42 #

    Then again, there are also the realities- which is that with everyone’s income being down, there aren’t as many tax dollars to go around. Expecting change to be sudden and dramatic is unreasonable in the US- and when it happens, it is often not a good thing and doesn’t last.

  2. Sullivan February 21, 2010 at 16:15 #


    Even some permanent increase over the 17% standard would be welcome. Some indication that the slope is going up on funding.

    IDEA in it’s different forms has been around for about 35 years. Making good on a that promise wouldn’t be sudden and dramatic in my book!

  3. Sullivan February 21, 2010 at 16:18 #

    Another observation,

    Last year the stimulous package included funding for special education

    Click to access PressSummary01-15-09.pdf

    “IDEA Special Education: $13 billion for formula grants to increase the federal share of special education costs and prevent these mandatory costs from forcing states to cut other areas of education.”

    Unfortunately, stimulus money is a 1-time thing. There is no provision for a long-term increase in funding.

  4. Rose February 21, 2010 at 19:45 #

    Unfortunately, a good share of the special education budget in many districts is reinbursement to parents for travel expenses taking their children to and from schools who have the ability to attempt to give them a FAPE, or for the “short bus”…nearly 1/2, I’ve been told.

    I don’t know what the answer is.

  5. Sullivan February 21, 2010 at 20:04 #


    one of those little busses runs $100k/year. Put 10 kids in and you are spending $10k/kid.

    I’ve seen non-public schools with a single kid in the bus from a given district.

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