U.S. Sen. Tina Smith pressed top Senate Appropriators on Tuesday to continue the recent increases in special education funding that have been critically important in helping educate students with disabilities in Minnesota and across the country.
In a letter, Smith led a group of 12 key Senators in pressing Appropriations Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Vice Chair Richard Shelby (R-AL) to maintain the $2.6 billion increase in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) funding proposed in both the House and Senate, as they work on end-of-the-year funding bills. The Minnesota senator noted in a press release that the preservation of the increased IDEA funding is critical to putting Congress on a fiscally responsible path to fully fund special education services.
The press release added that, under the 1975 IDEA, the federal government promised to fund 40 percent of the cost of special education, but Congress has never met this requirement. Due to this funding gap, Minnesota was shortchanged $427 million in federal IDEA funding in 2017-2018. Additionally, according to Minnesota Education Department data, the difference between the costs and funding that districts have to make up in Minnesota was $724 million in 2019 and could grow to $858 million by 2023.