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What Do You Mean “Not Fully Funded”?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has never been fully funded.

When Congress passed IDEA, they promised to cover 40% of the extra cost of special education. In other words, they would pay for nearly half of the additional cost required to educate students with disabilities (when compared to the cost per student without disabilities). Unfortunately, Congress has never come close to fulfilling that promise. The number of students with disabilities served under IDEA has increased by 25 percent in the past two decades. Yet, the IDEA state grant program was only funded at around $12 billion in 2017. The federal government is only covering 14.6% of the additional cost. (

Side bar: Each state is responsible for how the money is spent, but that's another topic.

How does Congress pass a law, then not fully fund it?!

Before we get into the funding, or lack thereof, what is IDEA? And why is it so important?

IDEA is the federal law that replaced the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (1975-1990) that ensures a free appropriate education for all children with a disability that is tailored to their needs.

Their needs, of course, are addressed in an Individual Education Plan (IEP) that contains evaluations, assessments, present levels of performance, specially designed instruction, related services and a myriad of other details that support individual needs.

So with all these individual needs, where is all of the funding coming from that goes towards supporting children with disabilities in public education? Hiring appropriate professionals? Purchasing accessible materials?

Herein lies the problem.

Since the original law's inception in 1975, IDEA and its predecessor have not ever had the funding required to meet the needs of children with disabilities across the United States.


Gerald Ford was still the president, and I was seven. That was a very long time ago...

Here are a few components of the federal law. If you are wanting to read IDEA in its entirety, you can find it here:

  • to ensure equal opportunity to access educational programming

  • to create educational environments that encourage the participation and inclusion of children with disabilities

  • to encourage independence

  • to provide each child with a disability access to an education where they are considered a general education student first

If each of these components was available to every child with a disability, how would that make a difference?

Think about it... (pause for consideration)

Here's the good news...!

The United States Congress’ 2022 Fiscal Year budget includes additional $448 million for special education. The first attempt at moving closer to more appropriate funding.

We'll just have to wait and see.

Disability is a natural part of the human experience and in no way diminishes the right of individuals to participate in or contribute to society. Improving educational results for children with disabilities is an essential element of our national policy of ensuring equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities. ~U.S. Congress statement included in the IDEA law

Want to know more about how Inclusiveology supports school communities with inclusion and supports for children with disabilities and learning differences? CLICK HERE and take a look around!

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