Special Education Costs Are Rising

The history of funding for special education can be summarized with one phrase.

Broken promises.

When Congress passed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1975, they promised to cover 40% of the associated costs required to educate and provide services for students with disabilities while the states were responsible for the remaining 60%. The National Center for Learning Disabilities reported that there are 25% more students being serviced under IDEA while the federal government is only covering 14.6% funding. 

The Cost of Failure

Special education costs are rising as more students are requiring services provided by a school’s given special education program. Yet, the lack of Congress’ promised funding creates a crushing weight placed on the states, and in turn, individual school districts. This creates a cascading effect as the 7 million (14%) students who receive special education support through IDEA are continually placed in a disadvantageous position through no fault of their own. This affects, quite literally, the life trajectory of many of these students who are in desperate need for support but are living in areas where their schools simply can’t afford what is needed for them such as more support staff, behavioral modification supplies such as desks, chairs, or stress balls that help keep students focused, or supplemental/specialized curriculum. 

When students are not given the proper support they need, their issues compound themselves and create further problems as time goes on and the individual falls behind even more. This could mean the difference between being able to successfully hold a job after graduation or not. If not, the parent(s)continue to be solely financially responsible for a now adult and not covered by the benefits, however little they were in a specific case, of IDEA since they are not in school anymore. 

A Desperate Plea

The National Council on Disability sent a report titled Broken Promises: The Underfunding of IDEA to the White House on February 7th, 2018 that “analyzes and summarizes several of the types of funding mechanisms proposed by Congress via bills in the last several congresses, as well as funding history, state funding formulas and budget tables, and district Funding.” The report provides a sobering look at the last decade of Congressional failure to uphold the promises of IDEA and the effects that only funding 14% of the promised 40% has on the educational system. They open the report that brings to light the real victims of this shortcoming with the statement of:

“Students with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of funding issues.” 

It is easy for those in charge to just focus on numbers and spreadsheets in the pristine meeting rooms on Capitol Hill and lose sight of the purpose behind IDEA and the millions it affects. We can only hope that they begin to look up from their stacks of paper and remember the millions of children who need educational support in their academic careers.

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