Fully Funding IDEA

If you had a chance to listen to me and Jen (and the inimitable Sarah Talbot) on KQED's Forum yesterday, you may have heard me make a plug for (and have temporary stage fright amnesia regarding the decoded acronym for) supporting IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act -- the federal government's only-partially funded commitment to supplement the cost of special education for every child in this country who needs it.

Here's how you can take action and help all children in the United States who need special education -- whether you have a kid in special ed or not. I'm in California, so I have included contact information for my two senators; you should email your own senators.

I'll write more on yesterday's My Baby Rides the Short Bus events surreality later -- including why I burst into tears and couldn't do my reading, not at first. But for now, please consider writing your to your senators about IDEA, as I already have. It's easy. You can even use a form (Senators and Representative), if you'd prefer.

Find the Email of your Senator:

Email Senator Boxer (CA) :

Email Senator Feinstein (CA) :

Suggested email :

Re : Full Funding IDEA Part B ( S 1652 http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d111:SN01652: )

Dear Senator ........... :

As your constituent and a Parent of a [ age ] year old Special Education Student, I urge you to do everything within your power to support Full Funding IDEA Part B ( S 1652 ).

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) reaches every public school. Approximately 12 percent of public school students receive assistance through special education. These children deserve special attention and additional resources.

35 years ago, when IDEA was passed (1975) the law included a commitment to pay 40 percent of the average per-student cost for every special education student. That commitment has never been met.

School districts are being forced to redirect more and more dollars from their general education budget to cover the federal shortfall, which hurts all students — those in general education and those in special education. Since 1975, the unfunded federal portion has cost local schools and taxpayers more than $300 billion.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. I look forward to your support.

Your name

............ ......... .....
County, [State]


  1. I wish you luck in your attempt. Not to be too much of a downer but we have been trying to get the IEA fully funded since its inception. But I along with everyone else should post your blog and see if it helps.

  2. Truly, from the moment we began grappling with the special ed monster I have believed this is the only way to reboot the increasingly acrimonious, race-to-the-bottom IEP process. Parents and schools shouldn't be fighting each other, but federal decisionmakers have forced the adversarial relationship because they've refused to provide adequate resources. Every time I sit down at an IEP meeting, I acknowledge the difficulty the school district has in balancing individual needs with budget constraints, and I wish aloud that there were some advocacy effort afoot to change the funding mechanisms so that special ed wouldn't come out of the general fund, with increases meaning cuts to or deficits in other areas.

    Unfortunately I also agree with Elise that the political will doesn't exist, and won't for a long time, and even then only with a serious, sustained, disciplined campaign to redefine the issue of special education funding as one of the federal govt failing to live up to its obligations, abandoning both local schools and families. I dream of the day that parents and school districts make common cause toward this common goal that will benefit everybody -- and represents such a tiny, tiny sliver of the federal budget.

  3. P.S. I should (and meant to) say that I make that acknowledgment at the outset of IEP meetings not just because it's true but more probably because I then feel less guilty when things get ugly -- and, while we did have a unicorns-and-fairies IEP, once, things have gotten ugly.

  4. Veronica,
    until we, parents of snk and voters, don't decide to vote our representatives based on their action and voting record on issues like IDEA, nothing will get accomplished.
    I believe we are especially powerful not as majority but as the minority who can tip the balance during a close election.

    IDEA was funded once, as part of the ARA package.
    Some of us believe we earned that during the presidential primary in California, when advocates remembered Hillary Clinton voting record on the previous re-authorization of IDEA, and campaigned/voted for Obama.
    Obama won California, and the nomination by a few votes. Clearly, he remembered it once he took office and included IDEA in the stimulus package.
    I don't know if you are in California, but Sen. Barbara Boxer needs to start thinking very seriously about IDEA in the next few months, if she wants to be re-elected.
    Keep informed, spread the word.


Respectful disagreement encouraged.