The Senate has passed a spending bill that significantly increases special education funding.
This bill puts the Individuals with Disability Education Act (IDEA) on tract for full funding in six years. The Senate also added $5 million as a block grant. This bill is now before a joint Congressional Committee. Full funding for IDEA should have started in 1975.
When IDEA was passed back then, there was considerable thought that the bill would be fully funded. In reality, IDEA has only been funded approximately 15 percent. The balance of the funding had to be picked up by the state and local education authorities. Congress promised 40 percent funding in 1975, with more to come later It should not have waited 28 years to fund the program.
IDEA's purpose was to make sure all children, including disabled children, receive a free appropriate education in the public schools.
Prior to the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA), local schools received funding from the state, and received additional funding for special education purposes. With the passage of KERA, the local education authorities only received one fund and from that they had to spend it as they saw fit. Because special education is more expensive, it unfairly suffered from this reform.
Special education touches many families. Special education programs in Kentucky serve about one (1) in every six (6) children.
Under IDEA, Kentucky receives about $88 million from the federal government. If the government would fund at least 40 percent as originally promised, Kentucky would get approximately an additional $150 million a year. Just this sum would provide Kentucky children with disabilities greater technology needs. It would also increase regular education funds for teacher salaries and technology for all children. The Republicans, who control Congress and the presidency, have no have no excuse for not passing this full funding bill.
With special education programs, these students will become productive members of society, and the need for other welfare programs will be substantially reduced.
Bernard J. Blau,
Jolly, Blau, Kriege & Turner, P.L.L.C.
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