Thursday, February 4, 2010

2011 Federal Education Budget: What's in it for Special Ed?

Seal of the w:United States Department of Educ...Image via Wikipedia

The 2011 budget proposed by the Obama Administration provides 12.8 Billion Dollars for Special Education Programs. Here is the analysis by the U. S Department of Education. I tend to get overwhelmed by big numbers, perhaps inspired by former Senator Dirksen who used to say, "... a million dollars here, a million dollars there, and pretty soon you're talking about a lot of money." Maybe modernly we should change "million" to "billion" or even "trillion," yet I digress.

When the Congress passed IDEA, the federal special education law, in 1975, it promised full funding of IDEA which was supposed to be 40% of the excess cost of special education. The proposed budget continues the 17% funding level. Many groups have commented that this is not in keeping with the full funding campaign pledge. For example, here is an article by the Council for Exceptional Children.

Another issue will be the hole created by the disappearance of stimulus funds. The Recovery Act poured a lot of money into education, including special ed. The 2011 budget provides no help for school districts who will no longer have access to these funds.

I am aware that the economy is not doing well. I also am not among those who necessarily equate the number of dollars budgeted to the quality of services received. Nonetheless, this budget is disappointing. Special education remains the biggest unfunded mandate in the federal system. I was hoping for more funding!


  1. Thanks a lot, Jim, for your post on this. Funding is absolutely critical as people work to improve outcomes in special education. I disagree, though, with the description of special education as an unfunded mandate. States do not have to take federal special education money any more than they have to take federal highway or Medicaid money. There is no legislative mandate about special education unless the state chooses to take the funds. The proportion of aid called for in the law has always been viewed as aspirational. That the amount is less than promised by various officeholders does not convert the law into an unfunded mandate. What's more, the obligation to educate kids with disabilities is every bit as much a duty for states and school districts as the duty to educate all other children. The federal money provides assistance for what the states ought to be doing anyway. At least that's my view. Thanks again for the posting on the issue. Mark

  2. Thanks Mark,

    Your right that the states don't have to take the money. Hopefully no state ill seriously consider that option.

    But we agree that more money from the feds would help. I'm disappointed by the proposed budget, but perhaps Congress will do the right thing. (I don't often say that phrase!)