U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House education committee, wants to see a big increase for federal special education funding, to the tune of $1.5 billion, in the next spending bill for the U.S. Department of Education. That would bring aid for special education to $13 billion, and the federal share of such spending up to 18 percent of the excess cost of educating a child with disabilities.
The feds originally pledged to pony up 40 percent of that funding when Congress first approved what is now the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act back in the 1970s. But they've never come close to that threshold, and right now it's about 16 percent. On Tuesday, Kline sent a letterasking for the increase to lawmakers on the House Appropriations Committee. He was joined by Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Ind., who oversess the House education subcommittee that deals with K-12 policy, and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., who has a son with special needs.
"Although our requested increase still falls short of the federal government's commitment to special-needs children, such a meaningful increase would generate significant new funding for all states and districts, giving policymakers and educators more freedom to use state and local funds to strengthen general and special education in their communities," the lawmakers wrote.
Notably, the letter doesn't propose where in the Education Department to cut to make room for such a major increase. A recent budget agreement would largely hold domestic-spending levels steady far into next year, so a boost for special education would likely mean cuts elsewhere. Presumably, the Obama administration's competitive grants, such as Race to the Top, would be tempting targets for the GOP. This is a long-standing issue; see more here.