Last week, the Senate Labor-Health-Education Appropriations Subcommittee – the body responsible for recommending federal funding levels – approved a proposal to invest some $40 million more in special and gifted education.
Led by Senator Tom Harkin (D-Ia.), a longtime champion of children with disabilities , this first step in setting funding levels for fiscal year 2015 represents modest increases in selected special/gifted education at a time when Congress is operating under extreme budget constraints.
While IDEA’s school-aged program is slated to receive $40 million more under this proposal, its preschool program for children with disabilities – which currently serves 750,000 – would receive no increase and instead would continue to reel from the cuts incurred by sequestration. Currently, the federal share of IDEA’s preschool program is $471 dollars-per-child, a 27 year low. In 1992, it was $803/child.
IDEA’s early intervention program -- serving 334,000 children birth through two years – would receive a $3.3 million increase, just enough to bring funding back to where it was prior to sequestration a couple of years ago.
CEC – together with advocates from across the nation – has been urging Congress to provide more substantial investments in all special education programs. In fact, just yesterday, some 90 special educators were on Capitol Hill urging for a greater investment in IDEA’s programs as part of CEC’s National Legislative Conference. Urge your elected officials to support increasing funding for special/gifted education programs!
Additionally, the National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER) would receive no funding increase under this proposal, leaving funding at $54 million. In 2011, NCSER suffered a 30% funding cut which resulted in 75% fewer new research grants last year. CEC – together with the disability and research communities – has been urging Congress to – at least – bring NCSER back to $70 million.
In a bright spot, the Senate Subcommittee proposed to increase funding for the Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act to $7 million. CEC has long advocated for the Javits program – the sole federal investment in gifted education – which was funded at $5 million this year. This investment goes toward a national research and development center on gifted education and demonstration grants to improve strategies for identification and services for high-ability children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
While the Senate proposal does not invest enough to fully meet the needs of the education field – particularly in the areas of IDEA’s early learning program and special education research – it adheres to the strict budget constraints set in place by pressures to reopen the federal government last fall which provided a significant relief in regaining many of the losses brought on by sequestration.
The full Senate Appropriations Committee was originally expected to consider this proposal late last week but that effort has been postponed to a date-to-be-determined. Stay tuned!