Budget Deal Includes Increase for Special Education Funding

boy in wheelchair and girl smile in front of a school bus

by Andy Jones
May 5, 2017

Congress passed a last minute budget deal on May 1 to keep the government running through September, which, among other things, surprisingly increases special education funding.

“While it does not deal with inflation, it allows critical programs to go forward,” Curt Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network, told Disability Scoop. “There were no attacks on programs that enforce the civil rights of persons with disabilities and no direct assault on disability programs in general.”

Under the bill, special education will see a $90 million spending increase, to about $12 billion.

However, the spending levels are still far below what Congress passed when it passed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the governing national special education law, in 1975.

At the time, Congress promised that the federal government would cover 40 percent of national special education spending, leaving the rest to the states and local government. The federal government has never approached this figure and the new budget deal would place the federal government’s allotment at roughly 16 percent.

“Though funding levels for almost all other disability-related programs are failing to keep pace with inflation, we welcome a return to regular order in the appropriations process and clear rejection of the Administration's proposed cuts,” stated Kim Musheno, chair of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, in a news release. “The absence of over a hundred ideologically divisive policy riders is a hopeful sign for a needed return to bipartisan cooperation.

“We hope that this bill sets the stage for a considered and reasonable funding plan for FY 2018 that begins in just a few months.”

For more on the budget deal, check out more stories on CNN, The Hill.com and Education Week.

Disability Rights Washington is the designated protection and advocacy agency in Washington and a member of the National Disability Rights Network.