Tell President Obama to fully fund IDEA

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Tell President Obama to fully fund IDEA

This petition had 1,189 supporters

During his campaign, President Obama stated that he would fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in his Plan to Empower Americans with Disabilities. Indeed, "Providing Americans with Disabilities Educational Opportunities" was the first section of the Obama-Biden plan, and fully funding IDEA was the #1 item: 

"Barack Obama has been a strong and consistent advocate for fully funding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Congress promised to shoulder 40 percent of each state’s “excess cost” of educating children with disabilities, but it has never lived up to this obligation. Currently, the federal government provides less than half of the promised funding (17 percent). Children are being shortchanged, and their parents are forced to fight with cash-strapped school districts to get the free and appropriate education the IDEA promises their children. Fully funding IDEA will provide students with disabilities the public education they have a right to, and school districts will be able to provide services without cutting into their general education budgets. In addition to fully funding IDEA, Barack Obama and Joe Biden will ensure effective implementation and enforcement of the Act." 

Since 1975, when IDEA (originally Public Law 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act) was enacted, it has never been fully funded. 

Under IDEA, school districts are required under IDEA to provide a "free and appropriate education" for children with disabilities. Teaching a student like my son---he needs 1:1 teaching and speech therapy, occupational therapy, P.E. taught by a teacher trained to work with kids with disabilities, and much else---requires many more resources than teaching a "typical" student does. As IDEA is not fully funded, school districts must make up the difference. It's no surprise that administrators have a way of saying you're getting the "best" placement for a child with "best" really being a codeword for "most economic" (=costs the district a lot lot less). 

Check out this history of IDEA and also this post on IDEA and Congressional Intent by education guest blogger Jennifer Parker. At the end of the second post, you'll find a graph that shows the yearly appropriation of IDEA funds with “full funding”. Jennifer cites a 2002 publication from the National Council on Disability entitled "Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Reauthorization: Where Do We Really Stand?" and quotes this comment on the report: 

"The findings … were a confirmation and documentation that the statute is strong, but implementation and enforcement are thin and inconsistent [my emphasis]. This study confirmed what children with disabilities and their families have repeatedly told NCD, namely, that too many students (1) did not receive FAPE [Free, Appropriate Public Education]; (2) were inappropriately placed in separate settings; (3) did not receive appropriate services whenserved in regular classrooms; (4) had not been able to access critical transition services and supports; (5) were not provided with related services such as speech therapy, physical therapy, or psychological counseling as reflected in their IEPs. And, (5) did not receive the benefits of procedural safe-guards and protections in evaluation in some states."
The graph Jennifer reproduces shows that the yearly appropriation for IDEA funds has not even been in the amount of half of the funds needed (and often significantly less than that). 

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, in urging states and school districts to use stimulus funds 'smartly', has called specifically for the implementation of online individualized education programs (IEPs) aligned with state academic standards, and also the hiring of transition coaches who would help graduating high school seniors find employment or get postsecondary training. These are laudatory measures, but fall far short of fully funding IDEA. 

Let's make sure they are only the beginning of a real commitment to students with disabilities by the Obama administration:Tell President Obama to fully fund IDEA.


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