On May 3, the House approved, 421-3, a bill (H.R. 4055) to authorize increased federal funds for education programs serving children with disabilities.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), approved by Congress in 1975, mandates that states provide education for disabled students, with 40 percent of the funding for that effort to be provided by the federal government. However, the federal contribution has not exceeded 12.6 percent in any year since IDEA’s approval. H.R. 4055 would authorize the federal government’s full 40 percent in funding for IDEA programs, starting with $7 billion in FY2001.
“We did not put our money where our mouth was,” said House Education and the Workforce Committee Chair Bill Goodling (R-PA). He added: “That meant that local school districts have had to raise all of this money locally and take it away from…better education for every other child because they had to fund this 40 percent.”
Rep. Goodling cautioned against “over-identification” of children as eligible for IDEA programs, saying that “there is not anybody that has enough money” to provide programs for more children than those who are actually in need.
Rep. Lynn Rivers (D-MI) urged her colleagues to appropriate the authorized funds. “I am very concerned that this activity today really represents a fig leaf rather than real progress for American schools,” she said, adding: “The commitment is not just to say we are for it; the commitment is to say we will pay for it.”