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

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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!