Dear Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader McCarthy:
Thank you for your efforts so far in addressing the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our nation's education system. Though educational support was made available to schools and states through the CARES Act, there is an immediate need for designated special education emergency funding. To address this gap, we are requesting $13 billion in funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), including in the form of the Part B grants-to-states program, in the next coronavirus relief package. This funding will ensure that schools can properly support students with disabilities, whose access to a quality education continues to be increasingly vulnerable due to the nature of this pandemic.
When IDEA became law in 1975, the federal government made a pledge to states and school districts to pay 40 percent of the Average Per Pupil Expenditure in IDEA Part B grants to states. We have always fallen short of this commitment, with regular appropriations for IDEA Part B never reaching above 19.4 percent. But while bipartisan work has been done to increase that amount over the past two years, current levels still fall short in meeting the federal promise to students and their families.
While the classroom environment has shifted, a school's responsibility to provide necessary and legally guaranteed services and support for students with disabilities has not changed. The challenge of providing high-quality distance education to students with disabilities was made even more difficult by IDEA's chronic underfunding in the regular appropriations process. Schools are now also preparing to mitigate the impacts from the loss of, or limited, services and supports for their students with disabilities as they transition into summer learning and the upcoming school year, but these efforts carry unexpected costs that their yearly IDEA budgets could not have previously accounted for.
So far, guidance issued by the Department of Education has upheld the core tenets of IDEA for schools, which protects the rights of students with disabilities in the classroom during the pandemic, whether that is in person or online. Dedicated funding would assist schools in their mission to fully support students with disabilities with individualized services that are tailored to meet the needs of each student and uphold their rights under IDEA. Providing set-aside IDEA funding in the next relief package would also demonstrate the commitment of Congress and the Department of Education to providing essential support to students with disabilities.
We thank you for your continued support for our schools and students, and we look forward to working with you to ensure we are providing an accessible and quality education to students of all abilities.